Frequent travelers know the annoyances that come with coordinating transportation through ridesharing apps. Sometimes you’re running late for a dinner reservation—and so is the car you requested. Other times you’ve landed at the airport after a long flight, and the only available car to take you home is more than 15 minutes away. Issues even arise when rideshare options are aplenty because it can be difficult to pinpoint the car that’s actually there to pick you up in the sea of vehicles awaiting passengers.
In an attempt to address these inconveniences directly, Uber unveiled three new features on Monday, July 16, which can be accessed immediately by updating the app on your mobile device.
More detailed messages
Updates to the ridesharing app include a new “pickup message” capability similar to texting that allows riders to communicate with drivers before pickup. Uber users can customize messages to drivers with specific information like clothing color or location description that will help drivers identify those passengers for pickup. (The messages will be communicated to Uber drivers through their voice-enabled mobile devices to encourage safe driving.)
The second feature aims to help Uber drivers spot passengers on crowded city street corners or in dimly lit areas at night. The “spotlight” feature allows Uber app-users to light up their phones with a special color that will help drivers spot and identify them. When riders select this feature, Uber drivers will receive a message informing them of which color light to look out for. (Last year, Lyft launched a feature intended to make it easier for riders to identify drivers through color-coded LED devices. Uber’s spotlight feature, however, aims to take the onus off the passenger to facilitate the coordination of his or her pickup.)
Potentially the most valuable Uber update for frequent travelers is the “guaranteed on-time pickups” feature, which allows users to preschedule rides within a selected time period as early as 30 days in advance at no additional cost. (Prescheduled rides must be scheduled at least 30 minutes in advance.) Fares for Uber rides booked through this feature are displayed as they’re requested, just as with rides requested on demand. If a user’s prescheduled ride does not arrive within the guaranteed timeframe the user selected, the customer will receive a $10 credit toward the next trip.
It’s yet to be seen whether Uber’s new features will smooth the pickup process for those who use the ridesharing service. For those who like to keep it simple, there’s always the option to hail a cab.