When is Uber coming to Austin

The streets of Austin are full on this Friday afternoon. With the South by Southwest (SXSW) one of the biggest events that the Texan city experiences year after year has just started. This makes the streets of downtown even more crowded. If you have to leave the city center or go to the airport in this hustle and bustle, you basically have three options: get on public transport, take a taxi or use ridesharing services such as Uber or Lyft.

A triad that is standard in many US metropolises. In recent years, however, ridesharing services have become more and more important. Their model: once a driver has been ordered to their current location with their mobile phone, they can drive their guests through the entire city for a fee - cheaper than taxis, more convenient than buses and trains.

That's why I would actually call an overdriver. Actually. Today I press another app on my smartphone.

Because with the success, so did the criticism of the ride sharing services. In particular, market leader Uber is regularly under attack due to recurring legal complications and accusations of exploiting its own drivers. For those who are uncomfortable with it, there is an alternative in Austin: Ride Austin. This is the app from a local non-profit organization that declared war on Uber and Lyft. According to her own statement, she pays her drivers much more fairly. Even so, Ride Austin promises cheap fares.

What sounds promising could also be a model for German cities. Ridesharing hasn't really got there yet - Uber is only available in a slimmed-down version in four cities. Unlike in the USA, private drivers are not allowed to be chauffeurs in their own cars. Uber only mediates passengers with licensed rental car companies. As a result, Uber and other ridesharing services are not a real alternative to private cars.

But thanks to legal easing and thus more competition, the time has come soon. And that could go too fast for one or the other city.

So it's time to take a look at the supposedly fair alternative.

Nice ride and fair price?

At first glance, Ride Austin doesn't look noticeably different from Uber or Lyft: In the midst of high-rise buildings, I use the app to order a driver to my current location on the roadside. After only two minutes he turns into my street in a yellow and gold Toyota Avalon Hybrid: It's Iuser, a 4.92 out of 5 star rated driver from Ride Austin. Ride Austin users can see all of this in the app even before the car arrives. It is almost identical with the competition.

It will soon be three years that Iuser has been driving through town for Ride Austin. Now at the time of the trade fair, he has a lot of passengers from all over the world, he says on our journey through the busy streets of the Texan city.

It's remarkably neat in his Toyota, and Iuser has tucked his blue plaid shirt neatly into his pants. He says he actually makes more money than his peers - or competitors - at Uber and Lyft. He doesn't want to say how much.

When asked what drivers earn, Ride Austin answers on its own website: "Because Ride Austin is a non-profit organization, we can pay our drivers a higher percentage of the total price while we keep the fare low." Also on request Ride Austin did not comment on the WirtschaftsWoche in more detail.

The donation-based organization has been around since 2016. It was founded because Uber and Lyft had withdrawn from Austin at the time and refused to accept the city's request for a driver fingerprint database. Uber and Lyft have been back in town since March 2017, making Ride Austin far from unrivaled. Andy Tryba, boss of Ride Austin, took stock a week after the return of Uber and Lyft: The order volume of Ride Austin fell by 55 percent in these 7 days alone. This shows the dominance of the two largest players in the ride sharing market.

Back in the yellow-gold Toyota: after ten minutes, my trip with Iuser is over: just under three kilometers from the city center to the city's university district. And the fare? $ 8.17 for the ride, $ 2 tip for the user. If you want, you can round up your fare and donate the difference to aid organizations in the city. In my case, that's 83 cents. In total, the trip with Iuser costs me 11 dollars - the equivalent of just under 9.80 euros. That sounds fair to me at first. I use the Uber website to estimate the fare for the same route. Result: $ 9.27. Quite a small difference. Good for Ride Austin. After all, I found the trip with Iuser more personal and also significantly more professional than my previous trips with Uber - and in terms of price it can actually keep up with its big competitor.

So if you want to try something new and have resisted Uber anyway, you should try Ride Austin. An Uber driver does the same for simple transportation from A to B.

If it weren't for the exploitative image.

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