ME engineer, environmentalist, politician, innkeeper Cowger> gone Tesla-X Uber driver

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ME engineer, environmentalist, politician, innkeeper Cowger> gone Tesla-X Uber driver

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Hallowell man, sporting his electric Tesla, breaks into Uber market
2017/12/03  Jason Pafundi

[images  / Joe Phelan
Scott Cowger holds up his phone with the Uber app on it Wednesday in his
Tesla in Hallowell
Scott Cowger holds up his phone with the Uber app on it on Wednesday beside
his Tesla in Hallowell

Scott Cowger owns the Maple Hill Farm Inn and Conference Center in Hallowell
and decided to become an Uber driver to take guests to various destinations
around central Maine.

HALLOWELL — Scott Cowger has been an engineer, an environmentalist, a
politician and an innkeeper. Now he’s an Uber driver, and he’s doing it in
his Tesla.

Cowger, the co-owner of the Maple Hill Farm Inn and Conference Center, has
been driving for the popular ride-sharing service for about a month, and
he’s approaching 20 rides, making him among the only such drivers in central

He started driving for Uber for a simple reason.

“I thought it would be a great idea to have it available to my guests at the
inn,” Cowger said during an interview at the Maple Hill Farm last week.
“They could tell me when they needed a ride, I’d turn on the app and take
them wherever.”

Uber is a global transportation technology company based in San Francisco
that operates in more than 630 cities worldwide, including other Maine
cities such as Portland. Uber drivers use their own vehicles, and riders use
an app on a smartphone to request a ride, pay for the ride and rate the
experience. There is no money exchanged between driver and rider, which is
one of the biggest selling points for the service.

An Uber representative declined to comment on how many Uber drivers there
are in Maine, and Cowger said he’s aware of one other person driving in this

In cities around the globe, a rider would expect their Uber driver to pick
them up in a Toyota Camry or Nissan Altima or a similar vehicle. When Cowger
arrives in his Tesla Model S 75D, which sell for at least $70,000, the
reactions are different.

“People are totally thrilled when I show up in my Tesla,” he said with a
smile. “They just love it.”

Cowger said driving people around central Maine gives him another excuse to
drive his luxury electric vehicle, which is emblazed in the front and back
with license plates that read “NO FUMES.” He said a lot of people around
here don’t even know what a Tesla is, so he appreciates the opportunity to
talk about the vehicle and the company.

“I’ve become an electric vehicle enthusiast,” he said. “It’s been fun to
demonstrate what an electric car is and how much fun it is to drive.”

Since Cowger began driving last month, he’s driven all types of people, but
he said most of his customers have been people new to the area. They’ve used
Uber elsewhere, and when they come to Maine, it’s something they’re familiar
with, he said.

“I think a lot of the people here don’t know about Uber and don’t know how
it works,” Cowger said. “People that come here, though, are used to having
Uber, and there’s definitely a gap in services.”

In the past, Cowger has called taxis or arranged private car services for
guests needing a ride to the airport in Portland or to downtown Hallowell,
so he’s hoping that he can provide that service for his guests.

He has driven people around central Maine and to and from Waterville, and
last week, while in South Portland for Thanksgiving, he turned on his
service and took someone to the airport. He’s taken people to bars in
Hallowell and other places and have taken some home, though he said he tends
to turn the service off late at night.

Cowger thinks there is definitely a demand for the service in central Maine,
but he doesn’t think enough people know it’s available.

“More drivers would be great, too, because we’d have more coverage,” he
said. “It’s less expensive than taking a cab, but people just don’t know
about it.”

Recently, Uber has been in the news because of a security breach and hack of
its network that left 57 million user accounts exposed. Uber paid $100,000
to the hackers to delete the data and did not tell regulators or users that
their information was stolen.

Cowger wasn’t an Uber driver when the company was hacked, and he said he’s
had nothing but smooth and seamless interactions with the service. There is
an even an Uber rep who has office hours in Portland.

As a Tesla owner, Cowger — after increasing his total number of rides given
— can qualify and register as an UberSelect driver, which is a premium
service that costs a little more to the customer but pays more to the

“It’ll be more worth my while to do short drives around town, because now
taking somebody to Hallowell is only like $4 or something,” he said. “Maybe
there’s a market for more upscale rides for special occasions.”

During the inn’s busy season, Cowger said he plans to only offer the Uber
service to guests. He said he’ll be more selective because he has to manage
the inn, too. In the winter and the inn’s offseason, he said driving for
Uber is a fun opportunity to meet new people, which is something he loves to

“I get to drive around and see new places,” he said. “It’s fun.”

There is a new website launching soon for the Maple Hill Farm and Cowger
said he’ll probably advertise his Uber availability on the site. He said
it’s a selling point for guests, and it’s a good opportunity to attract more
millennials and other people coming from out of state who’ve used the
service before.

If he wasn’t driving a Tesla, Cowger said he probably still would have
decided to drive for Uber.

“I drove my guests before, but I never got paid,” he said. “Now I get a
little something for it.”
[© 2017 Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel]

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