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Published on May 1st, 2015 |

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Uber much more than a taxi service, manager tells business group

If you think of Uber as a limousine or taxi service (what was known as a livery service in the old days), then you don’t understand the whole picture, Uber’s general manager for the Atlanta market told the Buckhead Business Association Thursday morning.

Uber's Atlanta area General Manager Keith Radford speaks to the Buckhead Business Association April 30.

Uber’s Atlanta area General Manager Keith Radford speaks to the Buckhead Business Association April 30.

“Uber is a technology data company,” said Keith Radford, who opened the Atlanta market for Uber 2 ½ years ago. “We don’t own cars or the drivers.” But Uber is known best known as an on-demand passenger delivery service powered through mobile phone apps.

“We’re not just a service where you’re in a car going from Point A to Point B. We’re trying to do everything,” Radford told the Buckhead business group at its weekly breakfast meeting at City Club of Buckhead. “Not all work, But no idea is a bad idea. As long as it’s to grow the company and is based on numbers and logic, we’ll do it.”

Radford, who has been with the San Francisco-based company for 3 ½ years, said that in 2012, Uber was in only five U.S. markets. Today it is in 304 cities in 56 countries.

Keith Radford talks about the many different services that Uber provides in various markets.

Keith Radford talks about the many different services that Uber provides in various markets.

“When I launched Uber in Atlanta 2½ years ago, 0.1 percent of metro Atlanta residents had heard of it, so it has grown on a global scale,” he said. Today, he added, Uber has 68 percent coverage of the U.S. population.

The company, which has 3,000 regular employees, is bringing onboard 50,000 contract drivers worldwide each month, said Radford. He did not say how many drivers Uber has globally.

“In Atlanta, four minutes is about the average estimated time of arrival” for one of the vehicles, he said. “It is purely cashless. Just tap on the app” and the app connects directly to the closest Uber driver, he explained. The customer’s credit card—on file with Uber—is automatically billed and a receipt is emailed to the customer.

“It’s about as seamless an experience you will have,” Radford told the audience. “It’s 35 percent cheaper than a taxi in Atlanta” and, there is never any tipping of the drivers.

In Atlanta, Radford told the audience, “We’re actually partnering with MARTA on what we call the Last Mile campaign, to get people from a train station or a bus stop to their final destination.”

The two main services are Uber Black, with cars equal to normally more expensive limousine services, and Uber X, with cars such as Toyota Camrys, Volvos, etc.

But transporting customers is not Uber’s only service. In 2013, drivers delivered Christmas trees to customers through a partnership with Atlanta-based Home Depot, which sells 2 million of them each year, the most in the nation. This year it plans to deliver more items, said Radford.

Uber Atlanta General Manager Keith Radford is shown with the BBA's Executive Director Smita Solanki.

Uber Atlanta General Manager Keith Radford is shown with the BBA’s Executive Director Smita Solanki.

Last year, Uber also partnered with the ASPCA for a “Puppies on Demand” program. For a fee, Uber would bring puppies to offices for some play time (billed in 15 minute increments) and part of the fee was donated to the ASPCA. The puppies were available for adoption and 16 of them were adopted in Atlanta by the end of the day, Radford said.

“Uber Ice Cream on Demand” delivers ice cream to homes. “It has become an Uber staple during the summer,” Radford said

In Chicago, “Uber Live” provided a mobile concert stage at the Lollapalooza music event, and, in New York, it delivers packages by bicycles through Uber Rush courier service, he said.

Uber Everywhere, for cities of 150,000 to 200,000 people, last year was launched in 200 municipalities, including Athens and Augusta in Georgia, Radford said.

The company also a program called UberMilitary, which introduces military personnel, veterans and military spouses to its services and empower  them to become entrepreneurs and small business owners.

“In Atlanta, the Uber drivers who are veterans are our best drivers,” Radford said.

Radford said each driver is subject to a rigorous background check and each customer has the opportunity to evaluate the drivers and the overall service each time they use the service. He indicated customers can also be evaluated by drivers and their use of the service cut off if necessary.

The Georgia General Assembly in March approved House Bill 225 which regulates Uber and a similar company, Lyft. Each driver will be required to have a valid driver’s license and auto insurance.

The bill, which is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal next week, came following pressure from taxi and limousine businesses wanting the newer companies to have the same requirements they face.

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