Are Olas and Ubers in India a fair alternative to the Public Taxi systems?

If you are residing in a city in India and do not own a car or travel by bus, chances are that you are using taxis for your daily commute. Over the past couple of years, Olas and Ubers in India, have hugely changed our taxi-riding experience. From the constant refusals of our beloved kaali-peeli drivers to calling a cab with a tap of the finger, we’ve come a long way. But is the smart riding experience, a particular favorite of Indian millennials, really better off? Let’s have a quick look:

Surge Pricing

Probably you guessed it even before reading the headline. The surge pricing for both Ola and Uber can be unbelievably steep. While the kaali-peelis were always demanding 50 or 100 rupees extra, Ola and Uber went a mile ahead and often demand three times the normal fare. And I am not talking about bad weather conditions or road disruptions here. It is a common scenario to ask for 3x prices regularly at peak hours. While some states have banned/capped surge pricing for good, most of the states are yet to do so. If the trend goes on like this, people will soon be forced to go back to the kaali-peeli days.

Untrained, Clueless drivers

It is understandable that many new drivers are joining the fleet every day and they do not belong to the city. But, some sort of orientation and training programs should be given to them before they start picking up passengers. I have had Uber/Ola drivers who do not know where Howrah station is, and needless to say, they do not know how to navigate using the maps. While map navigation and safe driving training courses should be an important part of their onboarding, taxi drivers also should be given a basic introduction about a city’s important landmarks.

Road Safety

Most of my readers would agree,  Ola/Uber drivers are bad drivers. They have very limited experience with city driving and map navigation. Also, while it is prohibited by the law to use mobile while driving, they are bound to use their smartphones either for contacting the passenger or for navigation purpose. I wonder how this violation of traffic law is justified by the companies. I am also not sure whether the drivers have proper commercial vehicle driving licenses. Most of them seem to be new, inexperienced ones lacking basic road sense.

Irrational travel routes for shared cabs

It is quite obvious that there might be slight detours of a km or so when we are availing shared cab options. The concept of a shared cab is quite promising in terms of reducing pollution and optimising traffic conditions. However, the cab providers should improve their apps with better algorithms. It is not acceptable for a cab to travel in the opposite direction for a passenger pickup and again resume on its way. Similarly, it is not desirable that a passenger has to travel 4 km extra in a 15 km route. Both of these examples are real ones and have happened to me more than once.

Pre-booking is not real

This is a strange one. A few months back both Ola and Uber decided to let the users pre-book the cabs way before the journey start time. However, I could not find the difference between pre-booking a cab and calling it on time. Often pre-bookings are canceled due to unavailability of cabs, surge pricing is applied and at times drivers are unwilling to reach the pickup point. If there is so much uncertainty in this process, why should one pre-book?

While Ola and Uber are changing the face of city traffic and mostly helping a lot of daily commuters, it is high time that they pay some attention to the above points. Drive safe, ride safe!


About Anandita Dasgupta

Anandita is a techie, an adventurer and a closet romantic. She eats to survive and backpacks around the world for nourishment.
Her practical worldview is reflected in her crisp and relatable writing style. She writes on a wide range of topics, but her core areas of interest are travel, career and culture!

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