The Uber Trip Upgrade: Everything You Need To Know

Harry here.  Uber is constantly releasing new features and integrations on both the passenger and driver side of the app – some are more meaningful than others though.  Today, senior RSG contributor Christian Perea takes a look at a new one called Trip Upgrade that has some interesting potential.  Let us know in the comments whether you’re all for it or against it.

Over the last two weeks, Uber Trip Upgrade has been rolling out to select markets. This feature works by reassigning requests to drivers that are closer to the request that they originally accepted. The feature is part of Uber’s goal of doing everything they can to maximize efficiency in their dispatch system by minimizing wait times for passengers and drivers; aiming for the never-ending trip.

Whenever Uber launches a new feature like this, drivers are bound to be concerned with a lot of questions on how a new feature will affect their overall operations on the road. Drivers have good reason for this because a lot of these changes affect our profitability and the choices we make on the road.

Uber Trip Upgrade
The message that appears in your Uber Driver Partner app if you are in a market that had Uber Trip Upgrade.

How Does Uber Trip Upgrade Work?

Lets say you get a request that is 10 minutes away and let’s also pretend you accept it 😉  Once you accept this request (we will call it Request 1), you begin driving ten long minutes towards Request 1… hoping they don’t cancel.

Five minutes into your drive to pickup Request 1, a new request (Request 2) occurs that is only a few blocks away from you.

Let’s also say that now there is a separate driver (Driver 2) that is now available and closer than you were to your original request (Request 1).

Uber Trip Upgrade will assign you to request 2, which is closer and it will also assign request 1 to driver 2.

All 4 parties involved get a shorter trip and less wasted time.

Uber Trip Upgrade: The Good

We all know that per mile pay is lower than it used to be, so that means that having more paid driving miles is more important than ever. As a driver, you also want to shave off the dead miles and minutes since you don’t get paid. This feature stands to make drivers have less dead miles and thus earn more money, simply by not having to drive as many “dead” miles between pickups.

A lot of these features work because of Uber’s scale in passenger density and market share. As we have seen with Sidecar and even Lyft’s Destination Filter, not having enough demand leads to these features having a low impact. But if you look at Uber’s destination filter, it’s been a big hit with drivers because of the higher density.

Less Wasted Time: I cannot tell you how many times I have accepted a request only to find out there was some traffic, construction, accident, or random thing in the way that made the pickup time much longer. I’m pretty good at avoiding time sink requests but even then, I still get a few a week where I am more or less stuck with a 10 minute pickup request. So getting rid of that request sounds really nice if someone closer appears. Especially if there is a parade or street closure that prevents me from getting to the other side of the city quickly.

Surge Efficiency: Surge isn’t always easy to predict. Some of it is, but for the most part it’s kind of a crap-shoot. I hate getting a ride on 1.5x only to pickup that person, drive them for 30 minutes, and then hear about how surge went to 2.5X or 3.0X. Trip Upgrade won’t trade a lower surge for a higher surge, but you could potentially get bumped from a 1.5X ride to say 2.0X.

Less Thinking: If the feature only changes trips when they are better for you, then there is less stress in trying to hunt trips or manipulate the system.

No Switching of Products: Fortunately, the trip ugprade feature only works within the same product.  So you won’t ever get switched from an UberX to an UberPool request.

What Is Not So Good

Passenger Ratings: The switching of trips does not take a passenger rating into account at the moment. Many drivers will not like getting switched from a 5 star passenger to a 4.7 star passenger, even if it shortens the length of the trip. This is especially true for the late night crowd, and for those who want to avoid certain areas or people for their safety.

Loss of Choice: Many drivers want to have choice in the rides they accept, myself included.  It also seems to be in that legal 1099/W2 gray area.  Should Uber be allowed to switch your trips if you’re an independent contractor?

Less Strategy: Along the lines of loss of choice, savvy drivers know that areas with more hotels for example, have a higher likelihood of a trip to the airport in the early mornings.  If you strategically accept rides, having Uber redirect could interrupt this plan.

Can’t Decline The Upgrade: Unlike Uber’s next trip feature which prompts you with an accept/ignore button when you’re nearing the end of your trip, there’s no such option with Uber’s trip upgrade feature.  If you’re in a market with trip upgrade and you get it, you have to do it.

My Take:

Overall, I think the Uber Trip Upgrade will be a good feature for the average driver. I can adapt to being redirected mid-trip since I am already used to Lyft Line and UberPOOL. If it means that I spend less time without passengers in my car, I am game for the update.

However, Uber will have to make it clear and PROVE to drivers that Trip Upgrades are really an upgrade in order for drivers to trust the system. I think Uber has lost a bit of drivers’ trust over the years by telling us things like ‘lower rates mean higher earnings for drivers’!  But we’ll have to see how this feature plays out in real life.  There’s a lot of potential for trip upgrade to work in the driver’s favor, but if not, it could be viewed as another way of manipulating driver earnings via the good ol’ switcharoo.

Uber Trip Upgrade FAQ

Will Trip Upgrade switch my UberX to UberPool?

Uber is only upgrading trips that occur within the same product. So if you accept an UberX you will only be upgraded to other UberX rides. It will not downgrade to UberPOOL. So you don’t have to worry about getting “downgraded” to an UberPOOL request if you originally accepted an UberX (or an UberX if you originally accepted Select).

Will it switch a higher surge ride to a lower surge ride?

No. Same surge or higher.

What about from lower to higher surge?

Yes. If the new trip is on a higher surge it will upgrade to the specifications of that trip. So if the second request is on 2.0x, it will pay you 2.0x. Even if the first request was originally at 1.2x. Uber really stressed this point to me.

Does the drive have a choice in accepting the new request?

No. If this is in your market, then Uber will automatically reassign the trip in a similar way that it adds an UberPOOL passenger

Will my trip upgrade to a passenger with a lower rating?

The passenger rating has no affect on whether or not your trip gets switched on an upgrade. So you can go from a 5.0 passengers to a 4.6 rated passenger if the trip is switched.

Is Uber Trip Upgrade in my market yet?

Uber Trip Upgrade is being tested in a few markets right now, but Uber intends to roll it out to other markets after they fine tune its specifics and test it. If you don’t see it yet, expect to see it soon.

Readers, what do you think of the Uber Trip Upgrade?

-Christian @ RSG