By Shannon Adams
Kodjo Okenba, a mathematics and natural science major at DCCC, was looking to make extra money on top of his full-time job when he first became an Uber driver in July of 2015.
Okenba reached out to his cousin, hoping he could assist him in finding someone who had a little experience with the transportation company and could provide him with some information on what it was like.
“I asked if he knew someone who worked for the company and he told me he did,” Okenba says. “He gave the guy my number, but I never [heard] back from him.”
When reaching out to his cousin fell through, Okenba took to Uber’s website, opting to sign up with the mindset of just giving it a try, he said.
Although nervousness regarding his first day wasn’t an issue, after considering how Uber passengers are able to rate their drivers, Okenba worried he would unintentionally do something to receive a poor rating.
To combat this fear, he explored Youtube to familiarize himself with how to get through his first day of driving with Uber.
Okenba was happy to find that the instructions seemed tame enough and that there was nothing said that would have scared him off, such as warnings of possible violence or harm coming to the company’s drivers.
To become an Uber driver, Okenba had to submit to a background check, have his vehicle inspected, and purchase auto insurance.
If ever his car does not pass inspection or he allows his insurance to lapse, his Uber status will be suspended.
Uber Drivers are able to set up their own schedules, which allows them to work either full or part time and to also
have day jobs. Okenba only works for Uber over the weekend, most often on Friday and Saturday and, on a good night, he makes anywhere between $70 to $80, after Uber has taken out their 28 percent.
“From 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. is the busiest,” Okenba said. “On those days you will get a lot of demand because people are going to and coming from bars.”
Okenba uses his new car, which he brought himself to transport his passengers back to their front doors safely.
“Uber is a great alternative to buses,” Okenba said. “It really shortens your commute time.”
Okenba is just one of over 160,000 active Uber drivers in the United States, according to their website, and that number has doubled every six months over the last two years.
Founded by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, Uber was first established in 2009 in San Francisco.
Its business model: to allow drivers to use their own cars as a way to make money and assist others.
An alternative to the taxi, Uber is available worldwide in 382 cities, and matches passengers with drivers in the area through GPS and Wi-Fi.
More than 8 million people are users of Uber and the number of daily trips is around 1 million, according to Time Magazine.
Upon matching with a driver, the Uber app will provide passengers with their driver’s name, license plate number, photo and rating as a way of creating a sense of safety and comfort.
According to their website, Uber has also created a code of conduct and set in place emergency response teams, should a dangerous situation arise
Under other circumstances, those involving lost items, pick-up destination changes or otherwise, riders are able to contact their Uber driver before and after pickup.
Should they have an unpleasant experience with a passenger, drivers are able to rate passengers and warn other drivers.
The app also allows passengers to request a driver with whom they may have had a pleasant experience driving.
Uber fans insist there are a lot of other things to like about the company, such as UberPOOL, a new service that automatically matches passengers with people going in the same direction.
UberEATS is another service that allows takeout to be brought to one’s front door via Uber driver.
Then there is UberX, one of many private car services offered without emptying one’s pockets, enthusiasts say, who also enjoy the convenience of being able to charge services to their credit card.
Despite its success, Uber has its critics and that has led to it being banned in Spain as well as a few other places, for reasons ranging from putting pedestrians at risk to depleting taxi revenue.
Some taxi drivers are rallying against the company, as “frequent flyers” begin to shift toward Uber because of its ready availability and pricing.
San Francisco, the very city that gave birth to the company, is among the cities whose taxi drivers are fighting back.
Although Kalanick has been called a disruption to the taxi workforce, Okenba remains satisfied in his work, he said, although he wouldn’t want to make a career out of it.
Okenba explained that he doesn’t worry so much about his safety, as he believes should something happen to him it must have been fate and that thought alone comforts him.
Still, he is concerned about the toll transporting people so often is having on his vehicle.
“I would really appreciate it if [Uber] sometimes reimbursed for gas,” Okenba said. “Or even just gave coupons for tune ups and other work sometimes.”