Can I ask my Uber driver
"UberPop should be banned - that's what I say as an Uber driver"
Everything goes Uber. When it gets dark at the weekend, free cars are in short supply - despite the growing fleet. Time to ride for a night.
"Are you ready"? Asks Georg *, and takes one last drag on his cigarette.
Georg opens the back door of his car, I squeeze into the extra seat at the very back of the noble vehicle. He takes a seat behind the wheel.
The interior of the car looks clean. It smells like that too. A few personal items, child seats and toys are stowed in the trunk. Georg starts the engine.
On the go with Uber
It starts. One night on the road with the Uber service. The young man drives for UberPop, by far the most popular, successful and widely used of all Uber services in Basel (see box).
We slowly curve through the streets of the residential area on the outskirts of the city. Now, on Saturday at 11.30 p.m., many lights are already out here. Soon we turn into one of Basel's ring roads, approach the city center, chat. About irrelevant and private matters. And about Uber.
«I don't do this full-time. That wouldn't work at all, that's not what it's meant for, ”says Georg. Then why is he doing it? «I like to drive. It's almost like relaxation for me, ”he replies. "At this time the streets are almost empty." And the money? “Yes, Uber allows me to make a little extra. For the family. Tomorrow, Sunday, garden bath. All inclusive."
We drive through the night. The cell phone lights up brightly, Georg holds it in front of my eyes as far as his arm reaches back, he has opened the Uber partner app. "You have to look, it will be quick now ..."
The device beeps loudly. The app shows a passenger. He or she is a little more than seven kilometers away in Birsfelden. Georg has a few seconds to accept the passenger. He does it. Now he finds out the first name of his passenger and the exact coordinates.
The scent of youth
He doesn't yet know where to go. The app only informs him of this when he picks up the Uber customer.
«I could also contact the customer. Even by phone. This is done via an anonymous number. " Does he have to do this often? "No, seldom necessary."
Georg concentrates on the street, neon-lit graffiti rush past. He shrugs his shoulders and says: “Uber has learned a lot over the years. This means that drivers cannot easily contact their passengers later if they like someone. " Has that happened often? Georg shrugs his shoulders again. "There are such and such."
“I live in the city, I could just as easily walk, but if my colleagues here buy an Uber, then of course I won't say no. Cozy!"
We will soon be in Birsfelden. Three 20-year-olds get in, a woman, two men, chatting, start to say where to go - "I already know: Port, Kleinbasel," says Georg, who has already set off - everyone laughs, Uber shows him to its new destination faster than the passengers can say.
Everyone is talking at one another, loud laughter. It smells like Red Bull, beer and cigarettes. So enveloped in the scent of youth, we drive to Kleinbasel.
“I just love Uber. The app is very practical. Actually, I almost never drove a taxi. But Uber also feels a lot less complicated. And it costs less. "
Dance and refuel
As soon as the passengers have alighted, the app beeps again. This time it's someone very close - less than two kilometers away. Pressing your thumb, pressing the gas pedal, a few minutes later a young woman is sitting next to Georg.
She greets Georg happily, talks about this and that. Then she hums to herself. She is looking forward to the next party on the other end of town. It was nice where she was before, but nobody wanted to move. And not really at the place before. And she wanted to dance. The whole night long.
«Ah, I know you! Hi! I'm fine? Uber is cool, party in the car, completely relaxed. But my main point is the price, right? If I have a bottle of gin for 15 euros and one for 20 euros, with the same quality, then I'll buy them for 15 euros. It is obvious!"
The young woman gets out at the club at the other end of town, we drive on, again towards the center. A dark limousine overtakes us. "An Uber," says Georg. Know each other? "Not in the narrower sense, not all, but of course you often run into each other." Georg estimates that over a hundred drivers are now on duty in Basel on weekends.
The Uber app beeps. Not a minute has passed. Georg refuses the passenger - “there are enough other drivers on the way around that time”. Better to fill up now. It is 0.30 a.m.
Uber punishes quickly: Because of the rejection, Georg is locked out of the system - the app does not allow him to accept passengers for 12 minutes. Although there is a need for drivers, and although there is nothing wrong with his rating as a driver.
“Uber wants me to take as many passengers as possible,” says Georg, following the signs for the Autobahn. "And I should never take a break," he adds.
We accelerate to 80 kilometers per hour, then to 100. "If I click away a customer or two, then I might be punished and take a lap away from the window." Georg shakes his head: “Some of Uber annoys us drivers. That is still harmless. "
Ten minutes later we are at the gas station. Stretch your legs. Petrol. Cigarette. Coffee. WC. "Now or never," warns Georg. Afterwards we drive, not stop.
Uber drivers among themselves
Georg meets another Uber driver at the gas station. His name is Stefan *. You share coffee, cigarettes, Coca-Cola, gossip and gossip. Stefan drives for UberX and not, like Georg, for UberPop.
Does that make a big difference? The men look as if someone had asked them if the tank couldn't be filled with water because it was cheaper.
“As an UberX driver, I have a passenger transport permit, a tachograph in the trunk, appropriate insurance and a special permit,” explains Stefan. It is a big investment, a lot of time and money are invested in it. He was a driver - that was his life. «I strictly adhere to the law. Anything else would be out of the question for me. "
Stefan opens the trunk of his car and shows his tachograph. «That must have professional drivers. Otherwise there is no insurance for passenger transport. And UberPop drivers don't have that. "
Uber drivers versus UberPop
Cars roar past the now almost abandoned gas station on the outskirts of the city. The shop is closing, it is shortly after one o'clock. The drivers keep talking.
The demand for UberX trips is comparatively low - it costs a little more than UberPop. "But not much," says Georg, the UberPop driver.
“There are more and more customers who notice the discussion in the media,” says Stefan from UberX: “They ask whether it is true that UberPop is not legal. Then I reply: If you can't reconcile it with your conscience, and I have guests like that, then you take an X. "
According to Stefan, informed passengers feel better when they know that everything is legal: "It costs the customer a little bit more, but everything goes exactly as it should."
“I always drive Uber, especially after going out. Uber is great. And super cheap. But sometimes there are not enough on the road in Basel! "
What's wrong with Uber? Stefan laughs. "Where to start?" Both laugh. "There is an UberPop driver in Basel," says Georg - "ah, my colleague," interrupts Stefan - "an UberPop driver who drives for up to 16 hours at a time." Stefan adds: "As a professional driver with a tachograph, I can't drive more than 10 hours, then it's over." His look becomes serious: "That should be put a stop."
Does the Uber app actually allow 16-hour shifts? "No problem." Both nod. "The app even tries to keep you behind the wheel for as long as possible," says Georg. "If you want to go offline, requests appear that you should make a few more trips to reach 150 francs, things like that," he adds.
“Uber is easy, man. Just no stress. Simply cozy, weisch? "
Georg takes a sip of Coke, gesticulates, struggles for words. He who likes to drive a car - also likes to drive a car for Uber, he emphasized this several times during the trip - he, who earns some extra money for his job with UberPop for himself and his family, then says: «You know, personal responsibility is all well and good, but control is needed somewhere. "
He lights a new cigarette and says, “The way it is now, you can drive for 24 hours with the Uber app. You can make money - not a lot of money, but make money - although you shouldn't be as a non-professional driver. " Stefan throws in: "Most UberPop drivers certainly don't pay taxes."
«Without your wanting to, you are breaking all kinds of rules. Meanwhile, Uber pretends to have nothing to do with any of this, ”says Georg, taking a deep breath:“ UberPop should be banned. And that's what I say as an UberPop driver. " He puts out the cigarette.
The solution, both men agree, would be very simple: ban UberPop, only allow UberX. "Then everything is legal," says Georg. And safer and more controllable.
“I take a taxi every weekend, twice for sure. Since Uber has been around, I've only been using Uber. It's easier and cheaper. "
Can a professional UberX driver make a living from his job? The service is only marginally more expensive than UberPop, but it needs trained professionals. “I couldn't afford life even if I drove 24 hours a day, 30 days a month. That's the main problem, ”says Stefan with a grin.
Without his other jobs he wouldn't be able to make ends meet financially. He assumes that UberX prices would rise if UberPop were to be banned. If the taxi companies were to get rid of their “outdated system” with “outdated laws”, there would be no problem for anyone. He is convinced of it.
Adoption. You wish you have a good trip.
It's after 1.30 a.m., we're driving across the city and the region. Once with a taciturn couple to the farthest part of Basel. A route that is financially worthwhile - even if Uber only shows the kilometers and the time a driver needs to transport people. Return journeys do not count towards work according to Uber's logic - although they cost time and fuel.
The journeys vary from uneventful to funny, in the car it is sometimes as quiet as a mouse, sometimes loudly. We never have a “problem case” on board. He has never experienced violence, but trouble with drunk people can happen, says Georg.
Even after five in the morning, Georg still accepts every peep to drive around young people. Not a single one of the passengers was over 40 years old. At this time it is mostly from the center to the periphery. The exit ends.
“Uber is more relaxed, personal and cooler than driving a taxi. Much better. And Uber is a lot cheaper! "
With the clubs, the streets are also emptying, now there are significantly fewer Uber drivers on the road. Despite the fact that the hour has moved on, demand is not falling.
On the tracking app that runs on my mobile phone, we have drawn a track around 130 kilometers ** long - from the edge of the city to the center and back to the periphery, along the ring roads, over the bridges, all the way out in different directions . And always back to the center.
Our Uber ride, a tightly woven network in bright red pixels over the Basel region.
It's enough. Georg signs off. The final bill comes promptly **. It's a modest three-digit amount. But more than Georg originally expected: Due to the high demand, Uber switched the fare to a factor of 1.2 during the night. He calculates for me that, even after deducting all deductions and expenses, he would make a profit with the modest amount generated. At least if he were regularly out and about for as long as that night.
“That is then commercial passenger transport. And UberPop isn't officially. But they don't care either: if a driver gets into trouble, that's not Uber's problem. They push off all responsibility. Already in the contract. No chance, ”says Georg.
"If all drivers now earn 1.2 times as much as usual," enthuses Georg, "that is really not wise."
Are there many other UberPop drivers who would argue like Georg? With the profit he will be going to the garden pool in a few hours. Bath towels in the shade. Glaces and french fries. All inclusive.
We say goodbye - Georg is going home.
>> You can also read our research on: «Above the law? Why it gets uncomfortable for Uber drivers in Basel »
* Name changed
** The TagesWoche does not publish exact figures in order to protect the identity of the driver.
UberPop is the best-known and most popular offer of the driving service: Anyone with a car (four-door, not older than 10 years), a driver's license (at least 3 years) and a white vest can become a hobby taxi driver in their free time. UberPop rides are popular not least because they are unrivaled in terms of price. In the words of Uber, UberPop is “a ride sharing service among individuals. People take each other with them for a small fee to reduce the fixed costs for their existing car, or simply to have nice conversations. " Most Uber drivers in Basel fall into this category.
UberX refers to an offer in which the passengers are transported by professional drivers who have a certificate of competence for passenger transport - and whose car is equipped with a tachograph. It costs a little more than UberPop, the driver density is smaller.
UberBlack is basically Uber's high-end offer. Anyone who uses this will be chauffeured in a stylish luxury body by a professional driver. At correspondingly higher prices. "A good choice for a business meeting or a date," says Uber. This is well received in Zurich, for example - in Basel there are currently only UberPop and UberX.
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