Christian here, This post is sponsored by FarePilot but as always, all thoughts, experiences, and opinions are my own. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the FarePilot app at first, but it started growing on me once I gave it a chance and now I dig it. You can take it for a test run yourself by using their link here (yes it’s free).
I know my area fairly well, but there are still a lot of rides that take me up into the hills, out in the weeds, or into the middle of suburban neighborhoods where I feel hopelessly lost.
Instead of waiting around for a ride, I often just drive back to The City as quickly as possible to be in familiar territory. I know I can probably find rides in a new place, but I don’t know where to hang out for them.
…that’s when FarePilot comes in.
“Where The Heck Am I?”
You never want to find yourself driving around aimlessly hoping that you will get a ride request. This is increasingly a low-margin business, so dead miles hurt my bottom line a lot more than ever. Whenever your wheels are moving, you should be driving to areas where you’ll have a higher chance of getting a ride. [Click to tweet this!]
FarePilot probably won’t help as much if you’re already getting back to-back or stacked requests when it’s busy. It’s best used as a tool when it’s slow (think middle of a weekday), or when you get a request that takes you to unfamiliar territory.
My Experience With FarePilot
It was the night of a big cybersecurity conference and I was fishing around for a high surge ride with the “Long Trip” notification. I logged off at 8:50 and pulled up in front of a large office that reimburses Uber rides for their employees after 9:00. I waited until 9:03 as the surge climbed, and I eventually ended up getting a ride on 2.1x that took me 38 minutes away (good for $50).
It’s nice when things work out 😀
This ride took me down to San Mateo and into a dark, residential neighborhood in the hills. Think hedgerows, gates, private schools, and Land Rovers. Upon dropping off my affluent and professional passenger (his ride was expensed), I didn’t know where I should go to get a ride back to The City. So I set my Destination Filter on Uber, and loaded up the FarePilot App to see where it would suggest I go to find a ride. I honestly didn’t have much faith it would work because it’s not like FarePilot knows everything Uber does.
FarePilot presented me with three options:
I selected the hotspot that was closest to me because it looked like it might be in a downtown area. I also figured that if I didn’t get a ride, I would still be close to the 101 and I could just head North back to familiar territory (and delete the app).
I started traveling towards the hotspot on FarePilot, and as I drew closer to the position I noticed that my surroundings were starting to become more commercial, dense, and generally better for rides. Then I got a ping on Uber:
The request came from within the actual hotspot (which I seriously didn’t expect). I figured that if I even got a request, that it might be nearish to the hotspot. But this one came right out of the middle!
This ride took me about ¾’s of the way back to The City and was worth around $20. It saved me a lot of dead miles in the process and had I not used FarePilot, I probably would have gone the opposite direction to get to the I-280 to avoid traffic and get back to familiar territory.
I was still able to get back to the city and catch another couple short rides on surge.
So in this example, FarePilot worked exactly as advertised. Earlier in the day, I also used FarePilot to find a hotspot in a ritzy commercial district in the suburbs. Although I didn’t get a request from within the hotspot, I got one that was only a few blocks away.
It’s a tool to find rides
I don’t find it practical to use FarePilot for every ride and this tool certainly doesn’t guarantee getting a ride. However, for all of the cases where I ask myself “where should I go next?” FarePilot is extremely useful. It’s also completely free, so test it out for yourself.
At the end of the day, it presents me with 3 options that are its best educated guess of where I can get a ride. That saves a lot of thinking, stressing, and wasted miles spent driving around hoping I’ll get something. Instead, I just go to the nearest hotspot that seems reasonable and park.
Let’s Analyze Some Hotspots
Let’s take a quick look at these three hotspots (from right to left):
Goleta Beach Park: Apart from being a beautiful place to park, when I used to drive in Santa Barbara, I always got lots of rides here from the restaurant on the pier and the students were rarely drunk. Also there’s a good chance of getting an airport ride.
UC Santa Barbara: I took this screenshot at around 2PM on a Wednesday. Students are leaving from class.
Isla Vista (farthest left): That spot is right in the downtown area of Isla Vista. You’ll get plenty of very, very short rides (good if you’re on an Uber Quest) from college kids who have been partying. Certainly lots of rides, but lots of loud passengers, too.
FarePilot Already Knew A Few of My Secret Hangout Spots
The first thing I did to test FarePilot’s hotspot claims was to see if the app knew of any of my secret spots… and to my surprise, it already knew some of them. For example, I know that every day at around 3:30 PM, there will be rides coming out of a food cooperative in the Bayview district of SF. I usually get one of these rides as I head out to work the evening shift and it takes me right into the middle of the busy area of the city.
FarePilot knew it, too. At 3:30, it dropped a hotspot directly on that spot.
Drawbacks and Workarounds
The FarePilot app had some drawbacks I didn’t particularly like. Most of them had a remedy or workaround, though. For example:
- I found that the FarePilot app drained my phone battery unless I put it on lockdown within my Galaxy S7. I recommend checking its battery usage and putting the app to sleep if it’s eating up too much battery.
- Notifications seemed a bit excessive by asking if I “made it” to the hotspot. Often I got a request before I got to the hotspot, or slightly outside of the hotspot and didn’t have time to interact with the the FarePilot app because I was busy working. Hopefully they make it so they ask this question 30-45 minutes later, or the next time you open their app.
- Sometimes a hotspot would be on the freeway or in the water. Solution: Make sure to review the 3 hotspots and select what you think is the best one. FarePilot says that this is being fixed and rolled out soon (if not already).
- The “Offer” section is pretty bare bones but takes up lots of real estate on the app (although now you will find RSG in there 😉 ).
A Useful Driver Tool
It’s important to point out (again) that driving toward a FarePilot hotspot isn’t a magical way to get a ride or to make one appear out of thin air. The app is making a highly educated guess based on a lot of historical data analysis and machine learning over time. I think of it as a tool in giving me “leads” on where to go next and giving me a different places to hangout for my next ride. It also expands my list of staging spots since it makes me try new places.
The alternative for me is to pull over and dig through Google maps to find and decide which area I want to stage in to get my next ride. There’s a lot of noise in this process though and it takes a while longer. The value of FarePilot for me is that it knows reasonably well where to find rides and all I have to do is open the app, drop a hotspot, and click to navigate to it.
Further, Uber and Lyft haven’t really released something similar yet. Even if/when they do (Uber and Lyft have tested similar features), I’m not exactly sure I trust them because it’s in their direct interest to “shift” drivers around to make their network more reliable or to reduce surge.
FarePilot’s interests are in getting drivers to use their app. That means it has to work. I like those interests a lot more.
Have you used the FarePilot app or are you planning to try it out?
-Christian @ RSG