Uber Hits Boston With Its Tech for Luxurious, On-the-Fly Rides

10/19/11Follow @xconomy

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the amount of time they need, while drivers get to spend more of their day or night gainfully employed.

Uber is still working on exact pricing for Boston, but its service has averaged out to run about 1.6 times the price of a cab, Graves says. The company reaps a 20 percent commission from drivers for each ride booked through the system. Uber doesn’t carry the lucrative price per single ride that the old luxury car ride system does, but Graves says overall it ups the income for drivers.

“It’s a better deal for drivers,” he says. “They’re working harder, but making more in the process.”

As it’s developing its Boston launch, Uber is working on accurately calculating the supply and demand for the service in the city. One potentially unsettling aspect of the service is that users can’t make reservations for rides ahead of time; it’s all done in the moment the ride is needed. “That’s a behavior change for most people,” says Graves. “If we can get the on-demand thing right, you don’t have to do reservations.”

That’s where Uber’s math department comes into play. It consists of (literal) rocket scientists, statisticians, and other computational gurus who develop algorithms meant to predict how many cars must be ready to meet demand in the different cities, and how factors like holidays, time, and weather will affect all that, says Graves.

About half of the company’s 32-person headcount is made up of engineers, all of whom are located in San Francisco. Operations staff across Uber’s different city locations account for the remainder. The company has raised about $12.5 million in funding, from investors like First Round Capital, LowerCase Capital, Benchmark Capital, and angel investors.

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