Uber provides an experience different than most taxi rides. The first clue, when an Uber driver arrived at the Harbor View Hotel Tuesday evening for a trip to the Steamship Authority terminal in Vineyard Haven, was an enormous chocolate Labrador riding shotgun.

Uber, the mobile phone-based ride sharing service, plans an official launch for service on Martha’s Vineyard within the next several weeks, sparking strong opposition from Island taxi companies. There are already about six Uber drivers operating on the Island.

Dave, who declined to give his last name, is one of them. He signed up and began taking passengers about a week ago. The relatively small number of drivers currently operating illustrates one of the initial criticisms of Uber. The quest for a test ride, aiming to simulate a typical trip from a hotel to the ferry terminal, began at noon Tuesday, but the Uber app showed no drivers available. The ride service would not have been an option for anyone trying to catch an afternoon boat.

The first driver showed up on the phone app about 5 p.m. It showed the driver’s location in Vineyard Haven, about 15 minutes away. A request for a pickup at the Harbor View in Edgartown was not accepted, About 20 minutes later the app showed Dave on duty in Katama, six minutes away. He immediately answered a request for pickup. The app showed a picture of Dave, his license plate number, a description of his vehicle including the number of seats available, and an estimate of the fare.

The estimate for this trip was $17 to $23. Fares are based on a combination of time and mileage. If traffic is heavy and the vehicle is moving slowly, the app automatically switches over to a rate based on time, and switches back when the vehicle resumes a certain speed. Fares can also change minute to minute, based on supply and demand.

Also displayed is a button that provides a way to contact the driver directly by phone. The app showed Dave’s rating, as assigned by riders once the ride is complete, was five on a scale of five. Dave also rates his passengers, on the same scale, which other drivers can see when you request an Uber ride. Dave signed in from Katama, shortly after finishing a shift on one of several other jobs he holds, so the Uber display showed his car sitting still for a minute or two, before the display began to track his progress on a map, and update his estimated time of arrival minute by minute.

He arrived at the hotel and warmly introduced himself and the dog to a first-time Uber user, offering a clean and comfortable rear seat.

“What’s your musical preference, because I have a wide array of music,” Dave asked the first-time rider. The request was for jazz; did he by any chance have something to play by the legendary bebop composer Thelonious Monk? Dave did. He piped a medley of Monk tunes from his iPod to his car speakers through Bluetooth, an impromptu set that lasted all the way to the ferry terminal.

Dave, a musician on the Island who holds down a collection of part-time jobs, said he hopes Uber becomes his only other job. He likes being his own boss.

“It gives me a lifestyle that I love to live,” he said. “If Uber works out on the Island, and I don’t need to have other work, I’ll just play music at night, and drive at night, and spend daytime on the beach with my dog. I don’t drink, so I can go hang out at a bar, see some friend’s band playing, put the app on, get a call and leave,” he said.

Dave said nearly all of his fares have been from people who are comfortable using the service elsewhere.

“The folks that I’ve had have been off-Islanders, who use Uber all the time in Boston or New York, and were pleasantly surprised when they came to the Island and looked on their Uber app,” he said.

Uber drivers and passengers are still working the kinks out. Dave forgot to swipe his Uber app to start the fare, and discovered the error halfway through the trip. At the end of the trip, the fare appeared as $13.98, but the driver said later it would have been $17. With a $5 tip, the total fare would have been $22. The Uber app instantly sent the rider a receipt and asked to rate the driver. The company says tipping is not necessary, but Dave said most people tip, as they would a taxi driver. Knowing the driver will rate his passengers may provide an incentive to tip well.

Across the street, a line of taxi vans was waited as a Steamship Authority ferry pulled into Vineyard Haven. The first driver in line was Dejan (Doc) Brokin, working for Stagecoach Taxi. Stagecoach has licenses to operate in both Tisbury and Edgartown.

Doc agreed to make the return trip to Edgartown. The cab was clean and comfortable, if a bit cavernous for a single rider. There are no meters in Island taxies, but when asked, Doc politely quoted a fare of $22. Fares are displayed on a piece of paper taped to the dashboard in front of the forward passenger seat. The fares are difficult to read from the middle seat in the van. Island taxi rates are set by boards of selectmen in each town, a situation that frustrates some passengers, since a company licensed in one town can charge a different fare for the same trip than a company licensed by another town. The $22 fare is based on two people. Each additional person going to the same location would cause the overall the fare to go up another $3.

“At the end, for 10 people, it’s like $5 or $6 a head” said Doc. “It’s not too bad. It’s almost like a bus.”

A frequent complaint among taxi customers is the practice of delaying the start of a trip until a 12-passenger van is full, with each passenger charged the full fare as the driver stops at multiple locations around the Island. But on this day there were no other passengers and the trip began immediately.

Doc said he makes a decent living, driving 50 to 60 hours per week in the summer, enough so that he works only one job. He is not all that worried about competition from Uber.

“I don’t think it’s going to affect my company that much,” he said. He noted that his fares are set, while Uber’s fares will fluctuate with supply and demand, and with the time it takes to make the trip. “In the summer when the traffic is really bad, I don’t know how much the fare is going to cost with Uber. They’re going to need an hour to get from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown; I don’t think people are going to want to pay that.”

He also noted that someone from Stagecoach Taxi is on duty around the clock. Most towns require round-the-clock coverage as a condition of a license.

“We have taxi stands around the Steamship, they cannot park over here. I think they’re not going to affect us. My company does a lot of business with hotels and weddings. Maybe it’s going to affect the companies who work at the airport,” he said.

With little traffic, the return trip by taxi took about the same time as the Uber trip. The price was $27 with the same $5 tip.

Doc dropped the passenger off at the front door of the Harbor View Hotel, and hustled to open the door.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to remove several personal details about the Uber driver, and to provide his account of the actual cost of the ride.