Uber, the San Francisco startup challenging taxi companies with its rideshare app, announced Thursday that it plans to expand to six more North Carolina cities.
The popular company already provides service in Charlotte and Raleigh. Starting at noon Thursday, people in Durham, Chapel Hill, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Fayetteville and Wilmington will also be able to use their smartphones to order a ride.
Billy Guernier, Uber’s general manager of regional expansion, says the decision to expand across the state makes North Carolina a pioneer.
“Our goal here is to make it the first place where Uber isn’t just available to the city, it’s available statewide,” Guernier said.
To get started with the rideshare service, customers download the app to their smartphones and link their credit card to their account. When a user wants a ride, he pulls up the app, hits a button, and the nearest available Uber driver picks him up. At the end of the ride, the $2.43 base fare plus additional $0.30 per minute or $1.46 per mile is charged to the credit card – no tip necessary. Uber takes a 20 percent cut, and drivers keep the rest.
Lyft, another company with rideshare service in Charlotte, operates similarly – the main difference being the fuzzy pink mustaches on the front of all Lyft cars.
There’s a market for drivers, too. Those interested in driving for Uber need only be 21 years old and pass a background check. As long as their car is in good condition, they can pick up their Uber phone – an iPhone with the app installed – and start driving. Drivers are free to sign on and off the app as they please, picking their own hours and locations.
Guernier says he expects the expansion to create “thousands of jobs” for those seeking to become Uber drivers.
Rideshare companies have caused controversy and drawn the ire of taxi companies in many cities. In Washington, D.C., taxicab drivers blocked streets with their cars on Wednesday to protest companies such as Uber and Lyft. Traditional taxi services and their supporters say the companies evade safety regulations and protections meant to shield consumers.