Uber originally began in San Francisco in 2009, with users able to book and reserve a car driven by a regular member of the public for journeys via text message or the dedicated smartphone app.
With the app, Uber users can track their booked car’s progress until it arrives at their chosen pick-up point, but the clever feature is that no money changes hands in person. The transaction is conducted electronically by the app and based on speed and time. If the Uber car is travelling at more than 11mph, the fee is based on distance covered. However, if the car drops below 11mph – in traffic, for example – the charge for the journey is calculated on time taken.
The company already operates in over 35 cities, including major world centres such as San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Berlin and London. Initially, the concept was met with a lukewarm reception in urban areas with well-established taxi networks, such as New York. However, in its home city of San Francisco Uber has thrived due to the relative lack of regulated taxicabs, while global growth has continued.
The company has faced some not insignificant hurdles, however. Uber received a cease and desist order from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency back in May 2011 after authorities claimed the firm was operating an unlicensed taxi service.
At the same time, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) claimed Uber was running an “unlicensed limousine dispatch.”