Founded in 2009, Uber has grown so much and so quickly it has hauled in an astounding $6.5 billion in revenue in less than 10 years.
But while the ridesharing/taxi cab app is commonplace all across the U.S., it has yet to make its way into the Twin Counties until just recently. Thomas “Earl” Stoneman of Coon Ridge recently began driving for the company and he hopes other drivers and customers will soon follow suit.
“I don’t think many people realize we now have Uber in Carroll County. It’s a question I get all the time. Uber is everywhere, but there has to be a demand for it,” Stoneman said. “Working for Uber is great. It’s a great way to meet new people and it is something that is great for the area. It’s a great way to get a ride if you don’t have one or if you need a designated driver. I am hoping we can get more drivers locally because I can’t be on there all the time, but I think it is a great service.”
Uber is a technology platform. Its smartphone apps connect driver-partners and riders. In areas where Uber operates, customers use their rider app to request a ride. When a nearby driver-partner such as Stoneman accepts your request, your app displays an estimated time of arrival for the driver-partner heading to your pickup location. Your app then notifies you when the driver-partner is about to arrive.
The app also provides information about the driver-partner with whom you will ride, including first name, vehicle type, and license plate number. This info helps the two connect at the pickup location. When you arrive at your destination and exit the vehicle, your trip ends. Your fare is automatically calculated and charged to the payment method you’ve linked to your Uber account.
For Stoneman, the great thing about Uber is it allows him to work whenever he wants. If he wants to drive and make some money, he simply turns on his app and waits for a customer request. If he is busy or doesn’t feel like driving, he just turns the app off. It serves as a great form of additional income for Stoneman, who works a pair of other part-time jobs at the moment. An Uber driver is restricted to 12 hours in a 24-hour span, however.
“So far the only ones I have driven around here have been out-of-towners. I have only driven one local, but I am hoping demand will pick up and more people will become involved,” said Stoneman, who made approximately $170 for a recent trip after driving a customer from Wytheville to Johnson City, Tennessee. “I love it because it is another form of income right now where I am trying to do this non-factory life. I really never want to go back to factory work. I want to do something different in my life and I am happy. I get to do it when I want and I feel a lot happier, the happiest I have been in a long time because of it.”
Of course, there are several requirements to be able to drive for Uber. Drivers must be at least 21 years old and have at least one year of driving experience in the U.S., or three years of driving experience in the U.S. if they are under 23 years of age. Drivers also must have a valid U.S. driver’s license and an eligible four-door vehicle. Potential Uber drivers must also submit their license and registration information to the company and undergo a background check.
“I think that is great. They should do background checks because you want the right people driving for you,” Stoneman said. “You are taking fine folks to wherever they are going to. You want good people doing that job. You want people you can rely on and the customers can rely on.”
A recent trip Stoneman made from Fancy Gap to Mount Airy shows Uber’s rate breaks down a certain rate per mile and per minute. There is also a base fare included and customers are encouraged to give tips. An additional fee may be imposed by Uber as well if the driver has to travel out of his way to make a pick up.
“I am hoping to get more drivers involved because it is not a full-time thing for me but it could be for someone else. It is something I would do for free because I like helping people and talking with people, but I do have bills to pay,” Stoneman said with a chuckle. “I know plenty of that don’t have a car but they have a smartphone and plenty of times they need a ride. It is a reasonable price. It is great for everybody and it is safe. It makes it safe to go out and have fun with friends and family and it allows you to be responsible and get to your destination. Hey, it’s a lot cheaper than a DUI.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN