August 28, 2014
Charlottesville has several new unofficial taxi drivers, thanks to the Uber app.
The app has been around for four years, but only started operating in Charlottesville on Thursday. The app matches normal drivers with people who are looking for rides.
Ahmed Naseh was one of the first people in Charlottesville to sign up. He is hoping to use the app to help with a difficult financial situation.
"This is the ninth month that I'm unemployed," Naseh said. "Just spending my savings. But fortunately I found this business, so hopefully I can survive with this."
Naseh has a wife and four sons to support. He has not had work since he lost his job at the University of Virginia Health System.
But his first night as an Uber driver was quite productive. He gave three rides in a couple hours, and he said he will always have a special memory of his first rider.
"She said, 'I'm new to this app,' and I told her, I'm new to Uber, so we will help each other," Naseh said.
Anyone can sign up for the app to be a rider. It takes a few minutes and requires you to put in your credit card information.
Drivers have a much more rigorous application process.
"We have background checks in place for every driver," said Uber Spokesperson Taylor Bennett. "If any concerns or complaints are made, you know we'd have the ability to immediately deactivate a driver."
Drivers are also required to keep their cars clean, pass safety inspections, and have working air conditioning.
The payment is all handled by credit card. The Uber app fixes the prices according to distance traveled, so there is no need for drivers and riders to haggle over prices or carry cash.
"It's a very safe for them, for both sides," Naseh said.
Bennett said they decided to launch the app in Charlottesville to coincide with the return of the students to U.Va. and the start of the college football season. He said the response in Charlottesville has been very strong, but he declined to say how many drivers have signed up with Uber.