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Using Uber in bad weather: 3 things to know

Uber operates in 150 cities across 42 countries. The San Francisco-based ride-sharing company anticipates demand to surge during the winter storm that’s projected to hit the Charlotte area Monday evening.
Uber operates in 150 cities across 42 countries. The San Francisco-based ride-sharing company anticipates demand to surge during the winter storm that’s projected to hit the Charlotte area Monday evening. BLOOMBERG

Anticipated hazardous road conditions will undoubtedly prompt some in Charlotte to opt for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft.

Ride-sharing, especially during inclement weather, has its ups and downs. Here’s what riders can expect from Uber, which has operated in Charlotte since September 2013:

1. Steeper prices.

Uber’s surge pricing model, based on supply and demand, is meant to encourage more of its drivers to be on the road. In other words, when demand for an Uber ride soars, so, too, does the price for a ride. The company has been criticized for pricing during busy periods such as Halloween of 2014, when ride costs surged more than nine times their normal rate in some areas.

“Given the weather, we do expect demand to be high. We have a mobile message that we’re launching today: All the riders will see that pop up and remind them they snow is coming and there might be higher demand than expected,” said Taylor Bennett, an Uber spokesman.

The message sent to North Carolina users on Monday also said surge pricing has been capped and Uber proceeds on surged trips will be donated to the American Red Cross.

By comparison, regulation on Charlotte taxi companies is designed to ensure cabs can’t hike their fares based on demand. Lyft could not be reached for comment.

2. Drivers may not have bad-weather experience.

Uber requires background checks on drivers as well as vehicle safety inspections, but there’s no requirement that drivers have experience driving in inclement weather.

Further, although many Uber drivers have SUVs, there’s no way for customers in Charlotte specifically to request an SUV or vehicle with a four-wheel drive.

Uber drivers, who must be at least 21 years old, are considered “independent contractors” who own their cars and decide when and how often they want to work, Bennett said. The company has told drivers to “anticipate the storm” and drive safety, though, Bennett said.

“We don’t have any kind of requirements in place or any kind of stipulations for these individuals who choose to drive,” Bennett said.

Uber also has commercial liability insurance for every driver for every trip, covering up to $1million from the moment the driver accepts the trip to the drop-off.

3. Stay home if you can.

Still, many, including city officials and businesses, advise staying in altogether instead of braving the roads.

“Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can,” said Tiffany Wright, public relations manager at AAA Carolinas. “Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.”

Peralta: 704-358-5079;

Twitter: @katieperalta

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