When David Glover picked up Oklahoma City Thunder player Nick Collison to take him practice on Friday, the two helped launch a new, smartphone-based transportation service in Oklahoma City, called Uber.
“Im happy to be rider 0 for @uber_okc. Im excited @uber is here in okc. I use @uber all the time and I love it,” Collison tweeted. And as Collison was Rider Zero, or the first one for Oklahoma City, Glover was Driver Zero.
Glover, an Oklahoma City community activist who is involved in another tech startup, said he had an interview and filled out paperwork on Thursday afternoon as a potential driver for Uber. By Friday morning, Glover's car was one of the icons representing available drivers that people could see on their smartphones with the free Uber application. And Collison used Uber's mobile app to summon the ride that Glover provided.
“It's all just instantaneous action,” said Glover, who said he initially went through the driver application process out of curiosity to see how it works.
Uber officially began in 2010 by transporting passengers around San Francisco. After that initial test program, Uber's popular ridesharing service has spread to nearly 50 cities worldwide, including about 25 in the United States, said Nairi Hourdajian, who is in public policy and communications for Uber Technologies.
The company picked Oklahoma City as its next location because it noticed that people in this area were downloading the app and trying to request a ride from Uber but couldn't. And since the area is so spread out and car-dependent, it was a natural choice, she said.
“We're excited to grow the business in Oklahoma City and make sure there are rides available to any resident,” Hourdajian said. She noted that Uber is in beta testing here as it gets the service started and it will take a couple of weeks for a formal launch.
Uber offers three levels of service, depending on a city's needs — Uber Black, which is a limousine-like service using Lincoln Town Cars and similar cars, Uber Taxi and Uber X. Oklahoma City has Uber X, which involves drivers vetted by Uber who pick up people in their own cars.
To use it, smartphone owners download the Uber app to their iPhones or Android phones and sign up for the service and give a credit card, either through the app or online at www.uber.com. They then use the app to request a ride, get estimated fares and wait times, as well as information about the car and driver coming to pick them up. A driver comes to give the ride, and the credit card is charged when the ride is over, so no money changes hands during the drive. Riders can rate their trips and their drivers, helping ensure that drivers are accountable. Drivers can offer rides on their own schedules, whenever they are available.
“Uber doesn't employ any drivers or own any of the cars. We partner with drivers,” Hourdajian said.
There are other services like Uber, but it's the only one in Oklahoma City.
Glover thinks it has potential.
“The thing is, most people don't really like to drive. This is just a simple good way,” he said.