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Memeburn gets the full story behind one man’s crazy Uber ride

Taking an Uber ride is supposed to be an easy and convenient experience. In fact, most people use the service for that reason, along with the Uber’s own driver vetting system, which is supposed to give riders the best experience possible. But no system is fool-proof as one rider recently discovered.

On the evening of 24 August, Omar-Pierre Soubra, Producer of Maker Faire Cape Town was escorting his friend Bertier Luyt, of LE FabShop, to the Cape Town International Airport to catch a flight. The pair decided on an UberBlack ride and left Cape Town city centre around 20:30 – Luyt’s flight back to Europe was scheduled to leave 22:50.

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Soubra says the two were having a casual conversation and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. The driver was a bit slow, but Soubra chalked it up to him being cautious. “After a while, though, maybe instinctively, I noticed that the time was running long,” says Soubra.

Read more: Cape Town’s new by-laws challenge Uber operations, 33 cars impounded

Soubra has been coming to Cape Town for the past 12 months to organise Maker Faire Cape Town. He said by now he knows the different routes to the airports and the times they take.

I started paying more attention to the screen of the phone, with the GPS navigation. I then saw that the GPS was telling the driver to exit the highway, but he did not exit. Then a second time, and a third time: the nav system was basically telling the driver to make a u-turn and drive the highway in the opposite direction. I had no idea where we were going.

By this point, the passengers were getting worried. Soubra asked the driver if he had a licence and the driver said, “Yes.” he repeated the question and received the same answer. The driver then missed another exit. Soubra yelled at the driver to get off of the highway and stop on the side of the road, which he did. By now the car had made it passed Cape Gate shopping centre and stopped near the 34 Kraaifontein East turn-off.

If you’re not familiar with the geography of Cape Town, the tweet Soubra sent to Uber in the wake of the incident should give you an idea of how far off-course the driver was:

After getting the driver to stop the car, Soubra says he asked the driver to “get out of the car, get in the back seat and buckle up! I took the driver seat and started driving, just following the instruction on the GPS navigation.”

Read more: Uber’s SA strife: while taxis threaten and government waits, everyone loses

Having previously worked in the UK — though now living in the US — Soubra said it was easy driving on the left side of the road. This is lucky as many would not have been able to easily adapt to driving on the opposite side.

“I am almost sure the driver was high on drugs or something,” the Maker Faire organiser told Memeburn. “He just sat down in the back of the car, buckled up, like a little boy who had be caught wrongdoing. He had his head down and said nothing during the entire course of event.”

Once at the airport, Soubra gave himself a 5-star rating — he didn’t know that drivers can rate customers — and hurried into the airport to make sure his guest was checked in. Once in the checkout line, Soubra reported the incident immediately through the Uber app.

Due to a glitch with its system, Uber informed Omar it didn’t receive the report until Wednesday. That is when the base was tweeted to get Uber’s attention. Soubra says once Uber became aware of the situation it refunded him, and took the correct steps in rectifying the situation. According to Uber’s communication with Soubra, the driver has passed all of the necessary qualifications from Uber, and Soubra believe this is the truth.

“Unfortunately, no test can prevent people from taking drugs afterwards,” he says, “whether you are a Uber driver or a taxi driver or any other profession, it is the same thing.”

Despite what he went through, Soubra remains positive about Uber as a service:

This one case is one exception, and frankly, I hope a world first that a rider get to drive his Uber Black to an airport! I use Uber all around the world, and still will. This is the best app to ride in any city it is operating, period. This one case just makes up for a good story my guest Bertier and I will remember for a long time, and laugh about it as no-one got hurt at the end.

Read more: Uber, Discovery Health brings SA on-demand flu vaccinations for the winter

Memeburn reached out to Uber about the incident. When asked if the driver was indeed ‘stoned’, a Uber representative told us that the company, “immediately made contact with the rider to better understand his complaint. The rider was not confident in the driver’s abilities and felt the driver was struggling with the Uber technology and GPS navigation system. The driver partner’s access to the Uber platform was deactivated.”

Uber says they take any allegations very seriously. Once it was aware of the situation, the driver’s access to the Uber platform was deactivated pending a full investigation.

“We do whatever it takes to ensure that a negative experience is not repeated,” says Uber.

Uber notes that in his communications, via the support channel, Soubra did not mention the driver being under the influence, but rather the driver’s lack of ability in using the Uber technology and GPS.

When asked if it had any further comment, the respondent said:

Uber’s in app safety features are designed to improve reliability and rider journeys. Riders must rate their drivers at the end of each journey. Uber’s 5 star rating system means riders can give honest (and anonymous) feedback about the driver taking them to their destination. Uber’s rating system means the rider drives the service levels and can give real-time feedback on their trips.

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