Young Cubans develop app to help with island’s transportation woes

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A report by Hatzel Vela for Local 10.

A group of young Cubans are hoping a mobile phone application can change the way Cubans get around and improve transportation problems plaguing the island.

The Uber-like application called Sube, a Spanish word that translates to “get in,” allows Cubans to find nearby cab drivers and then negotiate a cash price.

“We wanted the app to emulate the process that happens out on the streets,” said Darien Gonzalez, Sube co-founder and programmer.

Gonzalez, 26, and three other co-founders say the idea was ready to be published when the Cuban government released 3G service, which allows Cubans to freely connect to the internet on their mobile phones.

The idea was born about a year ago and the result of what these 20-somethings saw as an ongoing transportation issues in Cuba.

“It’s tough to stand out in the sun on a corner waiting for a taxi,” said Claudia Cuevas, another one of the application’s co-founder.

A reorganization of the independent cab system in Havana some argue has deepened the problem, which the Cuban government claims it is trying to solve.

Recently, the government announced it is incorporating hundreds of news buses brought from Russia to help ease the pain.

Cuevas, 26, showed Local 10 News how it works by first opening up the app, where a map automatically loads up letting you know your location. You request a ride, type in the number of passengers, and type in or use the map to tell the app where you want to go.

Sube will tell you how many drivers are within a 10-kilometer area. The driver will offer you a ride and price and it is up to the passenger to accept or reject.

If you reject, the driver has the option to lower the price. Unlike Uber, this is a cash transaction.

Over time, the more taxi drivers who join and the more people use the app, developers hope prices will drop.

They argue using the app remains cheaper than using a Cuban mobile phone to either text or call for a cab. The cheapest way to hitch a ride in Cuba remains hailing down a cab.

App developers admit to knowing about Uber, but because the app cannot be used in Cuba, they had never really seen how it truly works.

For now, creators say they’re not monetizing the application because they simply want it to work and move people from one place to another.

In Cuban street slang, Cuevas said, “se esta corriendo la bola,” which translates to the word getting around. She adds some 2,000 people have downloaded the app.

Sube founders realized Cubans, whether drivers or passengers, will have to adapt but in due time it will gain popularity because they hope it will fix a daily problem for Cubans throughout the island.  This is the Sube’s second version, said Gonzalez, who added they have received a significant amount of opinion, the majority positive.

He added: “We are very happy that it is being used. We want to improve it so everyone can use it.”

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