On the surface, driving people from point A to point B seems like a pretty easy job. But when people ask me what it’s like working for Uber, I tell them there’s actually a lot that goes into it. I don’t think they believe me though since it’s hard to understand what drivers have to go through unless you’re actually out there doing it yourself.
And if you’re like me and you’re also trying to really maximize your earnings, you’ll find yourself driving during the busiest times, encountering some pretty intoxicated passengers and dealing with lots of traffic and unique driving situations. I’m not trying to say that being an Uber driver is the most difficult or dangerous job in the world but I think most new drivers are surprised at what it actually takes to be a top earning driver.
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Over the past year, companies like Uber and Lyft have reached record levels of growth but drivers haven’t experienced quite the same highs. Driving for Uber is still a great job for many, but like with any job, there are things we like and things we don’t like so much.
One of the goals of my site is to help empower drivers and with a growing audience, I am able to do that more and more each day. At this point, I feel like it’s my responsibility to look out for drivers and that’s one of the motivations for today’s post. I think there are many features that Uber could add to its driver app that would be a win-win for everyone involved.
Today I’m going to share some of the top features that I’d like to see Uber add (or at least start working on) to enhance the driver’s experience. Some of them might be a stretch but I think a majority of these improvements are no-brainers for Uber to implement to show us that they actually care about their drivers. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think and also which features you think are actually doable. After that, I’m going to review all the feedback I get and pick a few to see if I can get them implemented!
1. Tipping Option
Uber drivers have been very vocal about adding a tipping feature for the past year, yet Uber has flat out refused to even talk about it. Whenever I do informal polls on Facebook, or talk to drivers, this issue comes up over and over. I think a lot of it stems from the fact that when rates were higher, drivers didn’t mind that there wasn’t a tipping option. Now that rates are lower, it’s hard to go above and beyond the call of duty if you know that you can do the bare minimum and get paid the same amount.
I know that personally, I rarely hand out extras like water bottles to my Uber passengers because there just isn’t a good chance of getting a return on my investment. This probably isn’t the best way to approach things in life but from a business perspective it makes a lot of sense.
I think Uber has exacerbated the problem too since they still make all new passengers set a tip amount when they first sign up (even though this ONLY applies to UberTaxi rides). Many passengers are under the false impression that tip is included in their UberX fares because of this.
If Uber were to add a tipping feature, I wouldn’t expect every passenger to tip but I do think they should at least be given the option. For now though, I carry my free Square Reader (your first $1,000 in processing is free) in case passengers want to leave a tip but don’t have cash. And of course, you can always drive for Lyft, which does allow passengers to tip on the app.
2. Better Navigation Options and Integration
I don’t even use an iPhone but I can’t tell you how many drivers have told me they want the option to auto-default the navigation button to Waze or Google maps (when you’re driving to a pax or after you’ve started the ride). For those who are unaware, on the Android Uber partner app you actually have this option but the iPhone app uses Uber’s built in maps function which has given drivers some problems to say the least (although it is getting better).
Seeing as how navigation is one of the top reasons drivers receive low ratings, this feature is near the top of my list. If you’re on an iPhone, you’ve probably noticed that the only way to use Google Maps or Waze is to memorize the address of the destination and then switch over to your preferred navigation app. If the rider doesn’t enter their destination, after you start the ride, you can head right over to your navigation app and enter it manually.
This issue has been around for nearly a year now and I don’t know what’s taking Uber so damn long to add it. It seems like it should be a top priority since since it makes the experience smoother for drivers, passengers and Uber.
(Ultimately, I’d like to see Waze or Google Maps integrated with the Uber app so you don’t even have to switch apps. That would also solve problems like this where some drivers have been shorted on Uber rides.)
3. Preferred Driver Program
If Uber won’t add a tip button, I think a feature like this could be the next best thing. I know that I’ve encountered many passengers who were very pleased with my service and asked me if there was a way they could request me again. Unfortunately, there’s no great way to do it though through the Uber app. You can try and build a network of passengers but with rates this low, that strategy won’t work as well as it used to.
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I think it would be really neat and a great way to build brand loyalty if passengers could save a list of their top 5 preferred drivers and when they request a ride, if that driver is available and within a certain ETA, they would have the option to specifically request them. These preferred driver trips would cost the passenger 1.2-1.5x depending on ETA and that way Uber would get a bigger cut, drivers would make more money and passengers would have the option to request their favorite drivers.
I know that I’d be more than happy to get certain customers again and even drive a little further to get them if it meant I’d get a small premium on the ride (and get to transport someone I like). It’s also a great way to target customers with low price sensitivity. There are always going to be passengers who just wan’t to take the cheapest option (high price sensitivity) but if there are people willing to pay more for preferred drivers, then it makes a lot of economical sense to charge them more (since they have low price sensitivity).
4. Pin location vs. Actual Address
One of the things I discovered pretty quickly picking up passengers during the party hours is that drunk people really suck at placing their pin. During the party hours, it’s pretty easy for riders to misplace the pin or just not realize that where they’re standing isn’t actually where their pin is.
Lyft has a pretty cool feature on the passenger side of the app that actually asks the rider to confirm their location if their dropped pin doesn’t match their phone’s GPS location. If Uber would add something like this, I think it would solve a lot of these miscommunications. Passengers will wait less and drivers will make more money since they won’t have to spend time/energy/gas driving around to the passenger’s actual location.
This might also work against passengers who try to game the ‘surge’ by placing their pin outside of a surge zone so that they only have to pay normal rates.
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5. Driver/Rider Special Event Notifications
Big events like Coachella in Palm Springs or Outside Lands in San Francisco are a great time to drive because they generally mean high surge pricing throughout the day. But the biggest problem you’ll encounter during these events is that it’s very difficult to coordinate pick-ups with your passenger. You may not be that familiar with the area and your passenger might also be pretty intoxicated; all of which leads to a lot of wasted (and unpaid) time spent searching for your passenger.
There’s a lot you can do to mitigate this issue but I think an in-app notification system would alleviate most of these problems. Uber currently sends out a weekly e-mail with details about where to pick-up/drop-off for special events but that type of information is a lot more valuable instantaneously (as opposed to weekly). Driving in Orange County (just south of LA) for example, I often get pulled up to LA and since I’m not registered to receive e-mails in that market, I don’t know where the pick-up/drop-off points are during special events.
Uber could fix this problem pretty easily by adding a notification anytime I accept a request within a certain area (similar to what they already do at airports) and they could also push the same notification to the passenger in order to ensure that we are both on the same page and can find each other much quicker.
6. Block A Passenger
This is another Lyft feature that I would love to see come over to Uber. As it stands now, if you give a passenger a 1 star rating, there is still a chance that you could be matched up with them again. I would like to see Uber add the feature where if you rate a passenger 3 or below, you can never be matched again.
There aren’t many passengers that I would rate a 3 or lower but there are definitely some out there that I think deserve it. If a passenger is extremely rude, obnoxious or inappropriate, I would love the option to rate them a 1-3 and never have to see them again.
7. Passenger Destination & Filter
With the growing popularity of UberPool, we are starting to see a large majority of rides in LA and SF on UberPool. Since passengers are already being trained to enter their destination, I think the next logical step is to require all passengers to do it and then add a destination filter similar to what Lyft currently has in place.
There are two situations in which I think a destination filter could be a huge help to drivers. The first is for those very long rides where drivers think they’re making a lot of money. In reality though, as rates have fallen, longer rides have actually become less and less lucrative since you have to eventually drive back empty-handed. A destination filter (even at a lower multiplier) would mean all of those long rides could become extremely profitable again.
Long rides don’t happen all the time but what does happen on a daily basis is me wanting to end my shift near my house. I always struggle with whether or not I should accept one more ride in the hopes that it will get me closer to my house. More often than not, I end up pretty far away from my house and have to drive back home empty-handed. A simple destination filter would allow me to keep driving until I got a ride in the general vicinity of my home. I know it wouldn’t work all the time, but some is definitely better than none.
8. Increased Pay For Longer ETA
High ETA’s aren’t a huge problem in big cities like LA but I know Uber drivers in smaller to mid-sized markets experience this issue a lot. How many times have you driven 10-20 minutes to pick up a passenger only to have it be a $4 minimum fare?
In this type of situation, you may actually be losing money on a minimum fare where the payout is only $2.40 and your expenses could very easily be above that if you’re driving 5-10 miles or so (10 miles at a $0.35 operating cost per mile = BIG loser). Because of this risk, I rarely accept ETA’s greater than 10 minutes and I know many other drivers feel the same way. I think as more drivers start to understand the cost of operating their vehicle, they will follow suit.
As it stands today, some drivers will even accept these rides and wait for the passengers to cancel so as not to affect their acceptance rate. I think it’s reasonable that passengers should pay a little more if their driver has to spend more time and money in order to get them.
9. Where Are My Fellow Drivers?
When I’m out driving for Uber, I find myself constantly switching between the Uber passenger app and my driver app. I know some drivers even carry a second phone just so they can check the Uber passenger app to see where other drivers are.
I think a feature like this would benefit all parties since it would encourage drivers to spread out and you would also be able to see when/where other drivers are getting removed from the map quickly which would indicate an area of high demand.
(Along these lines, seeing the total number of cars online would help me decide if it was worth it to go online or not. But Uber may not want that :))
10. Passenger Education
One thing that I think is sorely missing that could easily be addressed is passenger educate. Uber drivers receive weekly e-mails about new policies, hot spots and other various information so why not passengers too? It would be great if Uber could send out a weekly or even monthly e-mail that reminds passengers things like:
- Don’t slam your drivers doors, they are people too 🙂
- Don’t try to squeeze 5 people into an UberX, call an UberXL that will seat up to 6.
- Always remember to wear your seat belt.
- Please be ready to go when your driver arrives, they are not paid for the time they spend waiting for you to come outside.
Queue Screen – At places like the airport, where drivers have to wait ‘in line’ for a ride, it would be nice to see how many drivers are ahead and behind of you.
Dynamic Switching – In certain markets, if you drive an XL or Plus/Select Car, you are able to only accept those requests or have the option to also accept UberX requests. I think this feature should be extended to all markets and drivers should be given the option to toggle within the app instead of having to sign out and select their other vehicle.
Passenger History – This is a quick and easy request so that drivers can see how many rides their passengers have taken. I know that I would be a lot less hesitant to pick up a 3.5 rated passenger if they’ve done 100 rides compared to just 3 or 4.
Passenger Pictures – I love this feature on Lyft since it helps me spot my passengers and lets me know what or who I should expect.
Back to Back Rides – This is actually a Sidecar feature that I think would be cool but probably not all that necessary. Uber generally has high enough demand that you won’t wait too long for a request after dropping someone off.
Auto-start The Meter After One Minute – We all know how much longer Uber passengers take to come outside compared to Lyft passengers and I think this feature would encourage passengers to get outside a little quicker. Even though the pay wouldn’t be a whole lot, the faster your passenger comes out, the quicker you can get that ride done and move on to your next one.
Drivers, what feature on this list would you like to see Uber add? Is there a feature I left out or something you think would enhance the experience for everyone. Please leave a comment below!
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