Traditional cabs are a thing of the past.

Instead, your neighbor and his BMW, your hairdresser and her Mini, your best friend and his Tesla, or your co-worker and her Prius might be who you hail next to get a ride to the airport. That's because ride-hailing companies such as Uber are quickly spreading across the globe, giving any Joe Schmo with a car the ability to become a taxi driver and earn cash on the side (or, sometimes, they make enough to make it a day job).

Here's everything you need to know about Uber, including how it works.

Uber is a transportation company headquartered in San Francisco, CA. It offers the Uber mobile app, which you can use to submit a trip request, which is automatically sent to an Uber driver nearest to you, alerting the driver to your location. The driver, who will be driving his or her own personal car, will then come pick you up and bring you to your requested destination. The app automatically figures out the navigational route for the driver, calculates the distance and fare, and transfers the payment to the driver, without you having to say a word or even grab your wallet.

Uber, the company, is also developing and investing in self-driving cars, presumably with the purpose of launching its own fleet of autonomous taxis that can bring riders to their destination without the need of human drivers. 

Uber is available in 547 cities worldwide, as of November 2016. You can see if it's available in your city using this Uber webpage.

Requirements

There are two ways you can become an Uber rider: through the Uber app (iOS or Android), or through the Uber website. To sign up, you can connect through Facebook or Google+, but you'll still have to provide a mobile number and grant access to your location. You'll also have to provide a payment option, whether that's a credit or debit card, PayPal account, or a campus card.

Rider app

Uber makes a free app specifically riders. You can download it from Apple's App Store or Google's Play Store. The app enables you to submit a trip request. It automatically finds your location and logs GPS data. It matches you blindly with the closest driver (you'll see their name, license plate, photo, rating, and a temporary substitute number), and it lets you follow your trip in real-time via a built-in map and share your ETA with friends.

Requirements

If you're interested in being a driver rather than a rider, go to this Uber webpage to sign up to be a driver (it's free). You must be 21 years old, have at least one year of driving experience, a valid driver's license with proof of vehicle registration and insurance, and access to an eligible 4- or 6-door vehicle. After signing up, your driving record and criminal history will be reviewed by Uber.

Driver app

Uber gives its drivers access to a specific app. That app helps you decide how, where, and when to earn. When you want to drive, open the app and tap Go Online. You can follow your earnings, decide when you want to get paid (end of a car trip, etc), track profitable hotspots, minimise downtime, get access to turn-by-turn navigation directions, and leverage the ratings system to help riders decide you're the best driver for them.

Independent contractor

All Uber drivers can get paid weekly and drive wherever they want at any time of day. They don't have to report to an office or a direct boss. But they do have to drive their own personal car, or at least lease/rent one from an Uber partner. Uber drivers are considered independent contractors, which means taxation, work hours, pay, overtime benefits, and so forth are treated differently by various political jurisdictions globally.

According to The Washington Post, nearly two-thirds of Uber drivers use the ride-hailing service to collect additional income to supplement full- and part-time jobs. In three large metropolitan US cities, drivers make on average between $8.77 per hour and $13.17 per hour.

Insurance

All UberBLACK, UberSUV, and UberTAXI rides are provided by commercially licensed and insured partners and drivers. Those transportation providers are covered by commercial insurance policies in accordance with local and state requirements. Uber also said it offers US drivers third-party liability policies that work with their existing, personal insurance coverage. You can learn more about that from this Uber webpage

First, download the Uber mobile app and sign up to be a rider, if you haven't done so.

Submit a trip request

  1. Open Uber on your mobile device.
  2. Select a ride mode by tapping one of the following options on the main screen: UberX, UberXL, UberBLACK, UberTAXI, UberSUV, UberLUX, UberPOOL, or Assist. You may see some or all of these options, depending on your location, time, and sheer availability. 
  3. Tap the Schedule a Ride button on the bottom of the Ride Options screen to go to to the Enter Destination screen, where you'll enter your pickup date and time, current address, and destination address. You should then see a fare estimate, but before going to the next screen, you may be warned about a price hike depending on time of day and traffic.
  4. Tap Schedule in the Enter Destination screen to schedule your ride. Uber may take a few seconds or a few minutes to find a driver nearby.
  5. Once Uber's found a match, it will bring you to a screen where you can watch your driver navigate toward you on a map and see his or her's ETA. From this screen, you can also see the driver's name, license plate, photo, rating, and a temporary substitute number for contact.

Cancel your trip

  1. Sometimes you may wish to cancel a ride. The Uber app will allow you do this two to five minutes after you submit a request, but a cancellation fee ranging from $5 to $10 may be charged depending on city.

Follow your trip

  1. When the driver has arrived and noted in his own app that you've entered the vehicle, you will see a new Map screen. You can use this to follow your trip. You can also hip tap Send Status on the Map screen to share your ETA in real time, so your contacts know you’re safe.
  2. When you've arrived at your destination, the driver will note in his app that the trip is complete, and then your app will automatically process the payment with the payment option stored to your account.

Rate your driver

  1. At the end, Uber will ask you to rate your driver from 1 to 5 stars (5 being the highest). This rating will affect the driver's current overall rating that all riders see, thus enabling you to either recommend or warn against the driver. The Uber app does not facilitate tipping.

Uber offers various ride options, including the ability to request a luxury car, split fare with another rider, or travel in a specific assistance vehicle. Here are definitions for the most commonly available ride options.

  • UberX: an everyday car for up to four riders
  • UberXL: an everyday car for up to six riders
  • UberBLACK: a high-end sedan for up to four riders
  • UberTAXI: a partner taxi cab for up to four riders
  • UberSUV: an SUV for up to six riders
  • UberLUX: a high-end luxury car for up to four riders
  • UberPOOL: share your ride with other riders and be automatically charged a guaranteed split fare
  • Assist: an UberX option that is designed to provide additional assistance to seniors and people with disabilities

There are several ride-hailing services available in app stores, but the most popular one aside from Uber is probably Lyft. All these apps function nearly identically, though each one may offer a few unique features. 

Uber has partnered with restaurants in select cities to offer a food-delivery service, in which you can order anything from a roster of local food joints and get it delivered to you within 35 minutes. This paid service is called UberEATS, and it has its own Android and iOS mobile app. UberEATS, which also hires drivers, is available in over a dozen major US cities and is still expanding. 

Check out Pocket-lint's Uber hub for related news and reviews.