By Katie Taylor, Editor-in-Chief
Miami University’s campus and surrounding community just got a lot smaller thanks to the Oxford launch of Uber, a mobile app that allows anyone to access a ride with the click of a button on their smartphone.
The trending startup sent a handful of the company’s Miami alumni to talk about Uber’s success and announce the Oxford launch during a panel Monday, March 30 in Taylor Auditorium at the Farmer School of Business.
The company first released its citizen taxi service in San Francisco in 2010. It now spans 300 cities around the globe and was recently valuated at $40 billion, making it bigger than Twitter, Sony and many of the country’s most powerful companies.
Uber provides an opportunity for people to enter into a ridesharing agreement similar to a taxi service. However, unlike most transportation services, the app allows drivers who are accepted into the program to use their personal vehicle, and determine their own work schedule.
Uber Columbus General Manager James Ondrey said the app has been successful because of this flexibility.
He also stressed that the launch provides the Oxford community with an opportunity they need to take advantage of to get the service to really take root.
“When Uber first launches a market, we have to grow it,” he said, commenting on the fact six drivers from Cincinnati drove in for the Oxford launch. “[Drivers] will follow the demand, that’s kind of what the drivers do. If they see Miami University has a consistent flow of people wanting rides, they will come.”
What that means is the more involved students become — whether they’re looking to make some quick cash by applying to drive or signing up with their smartphone to access rides — the more strong and reliable the service will become in the area.
Anyone with a driver’s license can apply, but each individual is screened with extensive background checks to ensure riders’ safety.
To access a ride through Uber, all one needs is to download the app, and connect their account with a credit card number for payments, allowing for paperless transactions. The cost of each ride varies based on distance, location and driver-availability. For example, getting a ride on New Year’s Eve in New York City is much more expensive than on other days of the year, due to increased demand. All payments are calculated prior to accepting the fee.
Senior Clay Scott worked on the Uber Cincinnati expansion for the past year as an intern. As a Miami student who has an awareness of campus dynamics and student-culture, he’s very confident the app will catch on quickly in the area.
“It makes the campus more accessible, smaller, immediately,” Scott said. “With the student-housing that’s going up off campus, further away from where the core operations on campus are, I think it doesn’t hurt anybody to have easy transportation methods.”