The ride-sharing service Uber has been at the center of debate and controversy in several New Hampshire cities the past several months.
The company is operating in Portsmouth, Manchester and has recently started up in Nashua. Local officials in all of those cities continue to discuss how Uber’s drivers should be regulated.
In the middle of all this are the drivers themselves.
Antonio Correia works as an Uber driver in Manchester.
He joins Morning Edition to talk about this issue.
For those unfamiliar with Uber, how does it work?
Ube is almost like a peer-to-peer network. You need a ride to go someplace, so they’ll open up their smartphone, open up the Uber technologies app, and immediately it tells them the estimated time of arrival for the driver. It could be two minutes, or it could be up to half an hour, depending on your location.
How did you become involved and become an Uber driver?
I did my first application in September. It took me about four weeks to get involved because of the two background checks. They do both a federal and a state, they check everything. You’re not allowed to have any crimes at all on your record or even speeding tickets. They really frown on that.
So they do criminal background checks and a driver check?
And a driver check.
What other requirements are there to become a driver?
You have to make sure you have a clean car. When I started, I drove a 1999 Saab, and that was an unacceptable car for Uber. So as soon as my background checks went in, I asked them if they offered any financing options. As of now, they have Toyota financial, GM, and Santander Bank, who offer easy financing for people, even with poor credit.
So you actually went in and financed a new car with the help of Uber?
And so how has business been going for you? You’ve doing this now since November. Do you do this full time?
I do it full time, yes. The first week was good. The next week was better. And it just kept getting better as soon as I studied the way people travel.
Do you have regular customers?
I do. I sometimes pick up the same person twice in a day.
We don’t expect any tip in compensation because Uber fairly compensates us. So there’s no tipping, no cash involved.
There’s been a lot of debate, particularly in Manchester, about how to regulate Uber drivers. Some say you should have to go through a city-sponsored background checks and vehicle inspection.
Do you agree there needs to be more oversight?
They’re already very strict about your vehicle. And they sometimes have Uber representatives who take a ride in an Uber. You would get an immediate suspension if your vehicle wasn’t up to par. You can’t have any body damage. You need a 2006 or newer vehicle. They have insurance checks and they’re always constantly checking your background for driving records to make sure you’re still up to par.
Uber has a disclaimer on its website saying it doesn’t guarantee the safety of riders. So should there be more regulation at the local level to make sure riders are safe?
Really, I think the people who are responsible for their safety are the passengers. They have my picture. They know my plate. They know my car. They at any time can just cancel the ride if they feel uncomfortable getting in the car.
I haven’t heard of anything bad in this area that’s been going on. And most of the bad things that have happened are people not verifying who they’re getting in with.
Obviously, taxi companies saying that Uber should have to conform to the same standards they do. Do you think they have a point?
To be honest, I think we have to conform to a higher standard being a new business. And all of our vehicles, if they’re not 100 percent, will get an immediate suspension.
Officials in Manchester have given Uber a deadline to come up with a plan to address the concerns of city officials.
If that doesn’t happen, there are threats of a court injunction that would make it illegal for Uber drivers like yourself to be operating in the city.
If that were to happen, would you do?
Probably be out of a job. I’d end up going back down to Boston where they kind of made it mainstream down there. I’d been in Boston and just recently I started driving in Nashua.
So do you have a sense that more drivers are going to be coming online soon in New Hampshire?
I’m hoping so, but most importantly, we need more riders.