Uber announces rider location improvements for drivers

New technologies to allow a driver to find a rider more swiftly

We’ll put it out there: Uber can be very frustrating, especially when dealing with novice drivers who, let’s say, somewhat less knowledgable than regular taxi drivers, with years of experience, navigating their way through the local area.

A few weeks ago we parked our car at Westfield in London’s Shepherd’s Bush. We were on the Wood Lane side of the car park and decided to hire an Uber to take us to London City Airport as we were in a hurry. Uber requested, we noted it was driving up Wood Lane towards us and clear from where we were standing (on Wood Lane) that we’d be found momentarily.

For some unfathomable reason, with us having no idea what he was referencing on his side, the driver decided to turn around and head in another direction, attempting to get through from the other side of Westfield. Perplexing, considering he was less than 200m from us when he accepted the booking.

We messaged the driver. No response. Called and he said he was parked up waiting for us (in completely the wrong area). A few minutes later he went beyond Uber’s self-imposed 6 minutes rider pickup limitation and our booking was cancelled and we were charged the £6 fee (which we have since recovered). This doesn’t offer a good experience as we then had to book another Uber and wait for arrival adding 15 minutes to the wait time.

To be fair to Uber drivers, locating a rider can be tricky, especially in crowds or when the rider decides to stand in an awkward location. This can be made worse by a lack of detailed GPS tracking, so Uber is working on ways to improve this facility. Drivers across various big American cities are testing a new Shadow Maps feature which should enable a driver to be able to track a moving rider more efficiently.

Going back to locating a rider, although we think the pin and address system should be clear to any driver with basic navigational skills, this clearly isn’t the case. We don’t know if the driver ignores the position of the pin and enters the address into Waze, which takes them on a different route or perhaps the driver’s phone is lacking a signal and the pin isn’t positioning the rider correctly. This can happen when navigating big cities.

With this in mind, Uber is attempting to make it even easier to locate a rider, particularly when a rider is standing with a bunch of other people.

One idea is for the rider’s mobile phone to show the same colour as the beacon on the window of the driver. For example, if their beacon is displaying a yellow, the rider’s mobile would show a yellow image which they could hold up to give the driver an idea of where they are waiting.

In addition, Uber will enable a rider to send the driver detail about how to spot them in a crowd. This could be something similar to “I’m wearing a blue beanie hat” to “I’m standing next to the big yellow pillar”. You can simply message this information to your driver, including where to pull up and they can respond accordingly (if they are allowed to use their mobile phone whilst driving).

Uber has also announced improvements to the way they will handle pre-scheduled pickups. If your pre-scheduled driver does not show at the allotted time, Uber automatically allocates you a $10 credit you can use towards your next trip (although to be fair, we’d prefer for our driver to turn up on time if we were on an important airport trip or similar).


About Author

The co-founder of Short Motivation, Chris originates from a technology background, initially developing software and then migrating to the international magazine industry for the last 15 years. The idea for Short Motivation came from travelling through 2011 and eventually became reality six years later, in 2017.