By: Jim Schrempp | Posted: January 23, 2016 | Updated: March 22, 2023
This article is about some exciting new alternatives that make getting from point A to point B by car much easier than in the past for those who don’t want to, or are not able to, just jump in their own car.
New alternatives for getting around are especially important for older adults, who have many reasons to be out and about but frequently prefer not to drive. Sometimes this is because they no longer drive at night. Sometimes, because they just don’t own a car. Until recently, these older adults were dependent on taxis or expensive professional car services, or the kindness of others.
New Internet Options to Summon a Car
The grocery store, lunch out, going to church, a doctor or dentist, or a night at the theater; there are often times when you need someone to drive you somewhere. In the past the only real option was to take a taxi. In the big city you can step on the street and hail a cab. What about those of us in the suburbs? We have always had to call a cab company. The taxi dispatcher would say, “we’ll have a cab to you in twenty minutes.” Often the “twenty minutes” might become an hour wait. How many times have you sat at home thinking, “where is that darn cab?”
The Internet has changed all this. First, you no longer have to telephone a taxi company. Now you can use what is called a rideshare app to hail a ride from an application on your smart phone. Second, you don’t have to wonder where your driver might be. With GPS in every car, your smart phone can show you exactly where your driver is, which way he is driving to get to you, and receive updated arrival times. Third, the Internet has allowed the emergence of an entirely new type of transportation company – the TNC.
What’s a TNC?
The newest transportation company doesn’t own any cars and doesn’t employ any drivers. Instead they act as an intermediary to arrange a ride and handle the payment. These Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) match up people who need rides with people who will drive them – for a price. The companies recruit ordinary people to become drivers and the companies provide some insurance to protect the rider in the event of an accident. TNCs compete with regulated taxi companies by using the Internet and smart phones to provide a better user experience for commercial transportation. The dominant players in this new field are Lyft and Uber.
A third player, Flywheel, is working to bring this same Internet enabled experience to traditional taxi cab companies. Flywheel acts an an intermediary between you, the rider, and the taxi cab company. Taxi companies that sign up with Flywheel make their cabs GPS enabled and agree to let Flywheel do the work of a traditional taxi dispatcher.
How Do These Ride Sharing Services Compare?
In our testing Uber and Lyft had comparable results. In both the city and the suburbs Uber and Lyft had cars within 10 minutes of our test locations. On the other hand, we had very mixed results with Flywheel. In some areas of San Francisco, Flywheel had lots of cabs available; other areas of the city had none. And in the suburbs Flywheel really let us down – if any cabs were available, they were often 20 minutes or more away.
Which to Use?
Both Uber and Lyft provide essentially the same service. There is a difference in corporate culture with Uber being more traditional and Lyft being more avant-garde. As you might expect in a fiercely competitive, win-lose market, there has been a lot of mud slinging between these two companies, but that hasn’t seemed to affect the service to you, the end user.
In our analysis Uber is the best fit for an older adult who needs a ride. However, either service will work for you. The detailed analysis behind our recommendation is available to you by clicking here to read our more detailed rideshare app comparison.
While our analyst team decided they liked Uber best, and many of our Longevity Explorers agree with them, there is a sizable minority of our Longevity Explorers who are not really comfortable with the idea of hopping in a private car. They prefer Flywheeel, since the car that arrives is a conventional taxi.
The Bottom Line
Arranging a ride is now as easy as tap-tap-tapping on your smart phone. Once you have a ride arranged you can watch the driver come to you and know that the driver will really show up when expected.
Hands on Guide: How to use Uber
We found in our Longevity Explorer sessions that many of the members were interested in a hands on guide to downloading the Uber App, setting it up, and using it. So we put together a series of short videos that will walk you through setting up, then using Uber on your smart phone, step-by-step.
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