By Dick Joy
Undisclosed Location, Manila – To celebrate Uber’s Ninth Anniversary, UberPH held an unorthodox “press conference” at an undisclosed location to discuss the ride-sharing app’s future in the Philippines. We say unorthodox because in organizing the press release, many of Uber’s now-unemployed drivers took to the streets to abduct several of their former fares who they know, through heart-to-heart Ubersations™, were journalists (or in our case, Purveyors of Fake News™).
UberPH communication director known pseudonymously as “Black Seat,” gave us a private presentation, detailing the plans for Uber to go “Unterground™” with their new ridesharing app, Unter™.
Unter is similar to Uber, but with subtle business model changes so as to fall outside the new LTO restrictions: unlike Uber, Unter makes no claims to be a legal entity, fully embracing the fact that they’re operating outside the law, and modeling its business to avoid the long reach of the law.
For example, the service has diversified beyond just smartphone apps, because having the app could be used as evidence against the passenger. Instead, an Unter car can be reached in a myriad of discreet ways, like marking the door or gate of your house with a white chalk cross, or through their “Unternet system,” a low-tech textchain.
Would-be passengers would need to text an Unter representative (Not just anyone can call an Unter now; I’ll explain more in a bit) with a secret passphrase (It’s “The Fire Rises”), followed by your age, name, location, and a promise that you’ll corroborate the driver’s story if you’re caught.
The Unter-rep then texts the nearest available driver with an equally-subtle codephrase (“U up?”), and if the driver accepts, you’ll receive a confirmation text, which affirms your complicity in the crime (“it’s too late to stop now, brother/sister”)
But if texting seems a bit too impersonal for you, Unter now has a special “face-to-face” service in a few select locations as well, like in Tondo, Quezon Avenue, or Taft. Called “Unter Fixer,” would-be passengers need only to walk up to one of Unter’s fixers (who can be identified with their faux-minx coats, wide hats, and canes) and ask for “a sweet ride” to your destination (Unter, admits, however, that they have yet to work out all the bugs in the system, claiming that the risk for getting mugged or catching a virus through the use of the service is still present, although still lower than when using a taxi.)
Nothing illustrates just how much Uber has changed, however, more than the cars themselves. Unter now only certifies two classes of vehicles – Motorcycles or heavily-modified technicals- for use as ridesharing cars; Unter operators (Unterators™) now operate in pairs, one acting as the driver, and the other as a lookout/weapon operator. This is because Unter, being forced to operate outside the law, requires that drivers either be able to escape the authorities by weaving through traffic, or by eliminating all hostiles. Getting caught means a revocation of their status as an Unter-drver, as well as a forfeiture of their life (it sounds drastic, but Unter says silencing witnesses is all they can do to keep the service running.)
There is a Silver-lining in this, however: Unter can get you through traffic better.
During the complimentary ride home given to me by Unter, the heavily-armed technical they put me in was able to beat EDSA traffic by gunning down those ahead of us in a hail of heavy machinegun fire, although I must admit, I can’t be entirely sure, because I was blindfolded the entire time, bound and gagged in the backseat.
Unter says that when they go public, there will be “significantly less binding and gagging, but we can’t promise that 100%. It was fine for me, though, because I liked it; the Unterators were made a bit uncomfortable by how gung-ho I was with the tie-cables and the rag-gag, but thankfully, Uber’s focus on customer service hasn’t changed with Unter, as the drivers remained stoic as I asked for them to tie me up a bit tighter (for safety reasons of course.)
Unter is still in the closed-beta stage with no definite date on when they go public. According to Black Seat, when they do roll out Unter to the public, it will do so without much fanfare, and people may not even notice, but that is by design. Unter will be a ‘closed’ service, meaning people can’t just sign up for it. Membership is exclusive only to those who’re “can keep their damn mouths shut” and “are willing to send us some incriminating photos of themselves to UnterHQ so that we’re all on the same boat if shit goes down.”
Review – 5/5
- It’s Uber! They can raise the price five-fold for no reason and I’ll still give them a good review.
- Customer service is still amazing. Sure, they don’t give me water like they used to, but if you ask nicely, they can let you man the HMG for awhile.
- Since they operate outside of the law, they don’t follow traffic rules and thus get me to my destination faster.
- Does not address deep-seated issues with transportation in this country (Possible Pro, as Black Seat did mention that once they have enough Uber-drivers, an armed revolt is possible.)