Next time you're on a business trip, there's an easier way to hail a cab using your smartphone.
Services like Lyft, Uber, and Taxi Magic are just 3 options that are very easy to use. They'll pop up your location on a map and show you the closest drivers and their ratings. The cars are immaculate. The price you pay includes tip, and later on you are emailed a breakdown of where you went on a map, what you paid for time, and what you paid for distance.
I read an interesting report in New York Magazine that raised a wrinkle I hadn't thought about: You expect that riders will be able to rate drivers, but did you know the drivers have their own secret ratings on passengers?
Uber's rating system for riders is on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Having a perfect 5-star rating means you'll get access to the best drivers, the quickest pickups, and the most reliable service.
The only way to know your rating is to ask a driver or contact Uber's company's customer service department. Fortunately, the company doesn't punish riders for minor infractions like a first-time cancellation. Your behavoir is really what will knock down your star rating. Are you a loud or obnoxious passenger? That will count against you.
Something regulated this way comes
California is now looking at regulating this burgeoning industry of private cars for hire on your smartphone. The Los Angeles Times reports the proposal under consideration "would require each company to obtain a state license, conduct criminal background checks on drivers and inspect their cars, impose a zero-tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use by drivers, set up a driver training program and maintain $1 million in excess liability insurance."
I don't have any problem with that. The incumbent taxi industry has long been crying foul over Lyft, Uber, and their ilk. But the reality is if it becomes an effective marketplace, and I'm a cabbie and I can make more money doing one of these other services, then that's where I should go. That's how the free market works.
Meanwhile, there's also a need for a car after you're out for a night on the town.
The feds are trying to get states to adopt a blood alcohol level of .05% instead of .08%. Bars and restaurants are in terror because they think people will be afraid to have even a single beer. I think that's a bit of an over-reaction and people will just adjust their habits if and when this becomes law.
But one mistake about drinking and driving means you could end up injured or dead. That's why I'm a fan of states offering free anti-DUI/DWI apps and I think there are some great entrepreneurial possibilities here too.
Hail a ride after a night out partying
Ultimately, I don't care how you do this: Pay for a cab, or use Lyft, Uber, or TaxiMagic. If you have a question about your blood alcohol level and your ability to safely drive, there's now an app for that: BreathalEyes.
Unfortunately, big cities have taken a stance against Uber and others that offer transportation alternatives geared toward city dwellers. But I hope that attitude will change in time.
Finally, there's a national clearinghouse to find a designated driver service near you available through DrinkingandDriving.org. Or you could also try StearClear.com or SafeRideAmerica.com, which both let you order a designated driver that drives you in your own car.
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