My shared taxi ‘experiment’

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I eagerly caught up on an array of TED podcasts on a recent Friday evening flight. Unsurprisingly,  Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s TED 2016 presentation focused on regulation, technology and Uber’s mission to decrease congestion and pollution through its uberPool ride-sharing service.

He didn’t disappoint, but my favourite part of his talk was a history lesson about the sharing economy that goes back 100 years to the Jitney Bus.

Created in 1914, there were 150,000 Jitney rides a day in Los Angeles by 1916. According to Kalanick, Uber in Los Angeles is currently doing 157,000 rides today.

The transport industry and government regulation put the brakes on the Jitney Bus. It seems not much has changed in 100 years of disruption.

After filling my mind with the goodness that is TED, I landed at Heathrow on a crisp evening with my head in a slight fog after a busy week.

I dug out my phone and ordered an Uber ride home. The driver arrived at Terminal 5 within 10 minutes and to my surprise another passenger stepped into the car. I was about to blame technology when I realised I had inadvertently ordered uberPool.

It turns out my fellow passenger had made the same error. We decided to continue the trip and over the next 45 minutes I had a rich conversation with a Lebanese-born band manager living in Dubai on a layover in London. She gave me excellent insights into Beirut including live music venues, historical attractions, where to stay and where to party.

This unintended encounter was described by our Kashmiri Uber driver as a refreshing change given his previous customer ride-sharing experiences had resulted in bickering or social awkwardness between the passengers.

While uberPOOL does take longer than a direct taxi ride home and this particular trip was drawn-out by a driver who was battling to read Waze directional commands, it’s an example of the unintended human connections created by the sharing economy where a Kashmiri, Lebanese and South African shared an experience and came away with more than just a taxi ride from point A to B.

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