Chances are, your Ola or Uber ride has changed lanes and is going the way of the black-and-yellow taxis -- your request for a ride is likely to be cancelled more often than not. Aggregator cab operators are going to allow drivers to know your destination from now on, so the ride you request may or may not materialise. The primary reason the idea of aggregator cabs revved off was that unlike black-and-yellow taxi drivers, these cabbies didn’t ask about the destination but you could count on them to ferry you at the push of a button. But now, things have come full circle and app cab drivers want to know where you want to go and they’d rather not.
Cab operators claim they are trying to plug the loophole by penalising drivers who keep refusing rides. Moreover, they will also provide incentives to drivers to cover longer dry runs before picking up passengers so that they don’t cancel the trip.
Uber accepted that there was a problem that passengers would face while requesting a ride; however, Ola refused to comment, claiming that ‘driver-friendly’ initiatives were being planned in the coming days. In its official blog, Uber has mentioned how drivers must ask prospective passengers about their destination over a phone call.
‘You pull out your phone, request an Uber and a driver accepts the trip. All is going well. Then your phone rings. It’s the driver, and they come straight out with the dreaded question: “Jaana Kahan Hai?” Depending on your answer, you might soon find yourself having to request another car. If you are a regular Uber rider, I expect you have had one or more of these experiences of late,’ the Uber blog notes.
Passengers claim that this leads to protracted waits, as drivers call them up to know the destination. As for the aggregators, they are carrying out an experiment, wherein some drivers are given the passengers’ destinations so that the driver doesn’t call to enquire.
According to Uber, it is taking some remedial measures. “We are piloting additional earnings for drivers who have to travel a long way to pick up customers. When drivers are few, and demand is high, this will help ensure they are willing to go the extra mile. We are also communicating with drivers about the importance of not cancelling trips after they accept them, and giving them incentives not to do so. At the same, we have introduced penalties for drivers continuing to maintain poor service quality standards,” stated a communication from Uber.
However, the word on the streets is that now, there will be no difference between aggregator cabs and black-and-yellow taxis. “The unique selling point of aggregator cabs was that there would be no cancellation and drivers would ply regardless of the destination. Now, there won’t be much difference between kaali-peelis and aggregator taxis,” said A V Shenoy, member, Mumbai Mobility Forum.
For the past few weeks, the topic of drivers calling up passengers to ascertain the destination only to cancel subsequently, especially on long-distance routes, has been a hot-button issue on social media. “These aggregator cab drivers usually call us to know the destination and without giving any reason, they cancel. And then the app again searches for a new driver. This step of allowing driver to know the destination would mean that there could be further delay in hailing the cab and uncertainty will loom,” said A Jain, a resident of Byculla.
Drivers claim that they are committed to providing the best service, but there are genuine obstacles like the cab running low on fuel, their inability to take a long trip, crowded roads or other issues. “As long as fares aren’t rationalised, drivers will continue to avoid long-journey rides. They earn less on longer journeys and on top of that there are barely any incentives,” said Anand Kute, leader of the aggregator cab drivers’ union.
The drivers claim that they are penalised Rs 500-1000 for cancelling a ride. Moreover, fuel prices, both of CNG and diesel, have skyrocketed over the months which makes ferrying long distances in heavy traffic unviable.