While I was in San Diego, I used the vehicle service Uber for the first time. I received a promo code beforehand which offered a free ride up to $20 for first time users. At one point in my trip I needed to get from sunny place A to sunny place B and didn’t feel like walking the 20 minutes or so. Faced with a taxi or Uber, I decided to go with the option I never tried before. It also didn’t hurt I had the promo code.

Downloading the app was easy, especially since I had mobile data the entire trip. Signing up was easy too, except for slight hiccup. I had intended to use the local San Diego number I had and associate that with my Uber account but it turns out it had already been used. Not only had it been used with Uber, that person had left his account in arrears to the amount of $30. You need to confirm your number by replying to a text message that Uber sends and since the local number was associated with the bad account, there was no way to proceed. My only option was to use my own Vancouver number with the account. That required me to swap SIM cards briefly, just to reply to Uber’s text to verify my number and also to confirm that I wanted an Uber pickup. It was a bit of a hassle but I don’t blame Uber for it.

As for the actual service, I was quite impressed. I like how the app shows you on the map how many Uber drivers are available in your immediate vicinity. When a driver is selected for you, you can watch their progress as they approach your location. You can also even get an estimate of you fare for the whole trip even before committing to a ride. You even know the name of your driver and the type of vehicle they are driving before they get there. Once they pick you up, it’s pretty much like a normal taxi. The great thing is, once you’re dropped off, you’re able to contact the driver again if you forget something in the vehicle. I left my cell phone in a taxi once and because it was hours before I realized it, it was very difficult for me to track down who my driver was.

Overall, I really liked my limited experience with Uber. I am well aware though that Uber is not perfect. Their “surge pricing” practice is nothing but a huge price grab and I find it laughable that they even try to defend it. I also understand it there are concerns about ensuring the quality of the drivers and their vehicles. Even with its problems though, I think Uber has a lot going for it. The tradition taxi business seems to have stagnated and perhaps Uber will pull it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I’m disappointed Uber had to retreat from Vancouver but I’m hoping it will return soon.

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