The Ultimate Guide to Rideshare Driver Lingo

If you’ve been driving for a while, you know probably know a lot of the driver lingo for Uber and Lyft: Surge, Quest, Boost, pinging, TOS, etc. But if you’re a new driver, these terms can be confusing. There’s no official Uber or Lyft manual (although you can check out our Ultimate Guides to Uber and Lyft!), so it’s not like you can even look up what all this stuff means.

Luckily for us, senior RSG contributor John Ince has been collecting rideshare abbreviations for us for a while and has put together the Ultimate Guide to Rideshare Driver Lingo. If you’ve ever wondered what a TCP is, or why anyone would “pee in the POOL”, John has you covered. Did we miss any lingo? Leave a note in the comments and, if it’s a good one, we’ll add it to this list!

Have you ever wondered what the terms

The App:  Once considered an amazing breakthrough and the guts of the ride-hailing revolution.  Now it’s ho-hum at best and a source of major frustration at its worst.  Drivers quickly learn that the app sometimes doesn’t behave properly, much to the chagrin of passengers who regularly dole out punishment in the form of a ding.

Ant: Hard-working, accepting every trip regardless of profitability, content with what Uber/Lyft/DoorDash feeds them, no planning, just trying to make the daily revenue goal they set before leaving the house regardless of how long it takes them to do so.

Autonomous Vehicle:  All the rage in Silicon Valley and Detroit these days.  Autonomous means free of human control. In other words, there’s no driver. If you’re somebody who makes a living behind the wheel, autonomous vehicles – aka robotic vehicles, aka driverless cars – are the enemy.  Fortunately, autonomous vehicle researchers haven’t quite figured everything out yet.

Autonomous vehicles won’t exist in their ideal state for a long long time – maybe never. Will driverless cars ever be able to manage urban complexity and unpredictable situations the way rideshare drivers do? Only time will tell.  Meanwhile, there’s a bigger problem – convincing  passengers to trust their lives with a developing technology.

Boober: Suggestive term concocted by Uber’s former CEO.  Precise definition subject to dispute depending on sex, age and current state of inebriation.   How bro can you go?  Pretty low apparently.  Hopefully we can relegate this term to the scrapheap of Uber history.

Business LicenseTechnically, rideshare drivers are business owners and, in some cities, this means drivers have to have business licenses. Basically, you’re paying money to tell the city/state you’re a business and then they approve you to go ahead and “be a business” – i.e. rideshare drive.

Chase the Surge:  A driver strategy that very seldom works. Driver sees red on the screen and bolts in that direction only to see the red disappear when they arrive and get a no-surge ping back in the area he/she just came from. Veteran drivers almost never chase the surge. Instead they anticipate the surge and are there when it happens.

Dashcam:  Small video camera mounted on the dashboard or rearview mirror.  Increasingly seen as a vital tool for drivers. Not needed until it’s needed, then it could be a lifesaver, especially if passenger makes up stuff or if you’re in an accident.

Dead Miles:  The miles you drive when you’re not earning anything. Long pickups increase dead miles.

Dead Time:  The time drivers spend waiting for a ping.

Ding:  Give a bad rating as in … Who dinged me? Dings are the bane of being a rideshare driver.Often there seems no rational explanation for a ding.  Sometimes you get really mad when you get dinged for no good reason.  That’s why Uber and Lyft do their best to make sure you will never know who dings you.

ETAEstimated Time of Arrival. For rideshare drivers, how far away a passenger is from your location. Passengers with lower ETAs are good because then you’re driving less unpaid miles.

Indefinite Pin: A telltale sign of a drunk, stoned or new passenger. They put the pin (passenger location) down in the wrong place and you don’t find out until you’ve driven a mile away from where the passenger actually is. You call and discover the error. Pax then dings you for going exactly where the passenger told you to go.

Independent Contractor:  It’s what the TNCs call drivers, mostly because it means they don’t have to pay expenses that they’d have to pay if drivers were classified as employees – like gas, maintenance, insurance and unemployment.  The drivers’ classification as independent contractors is being challenged in the courts.

The long term prospects don’t look good for the TNCs.  Huge issues loom over the inaptly dubbed sharing economy. Uber uses the term nimbly when arguing before a court of law, but then belies the claim by autonomously controlling driver behavior through measurements of acceptance and cancellation rates. They dangle bonuses in front of the eyes of drivers, all of which depend upon meeting certain conditions.

By not telling the driver where he or she is going, you’re essentially required to accept rides that don’t necessarily make sense for you economically. You can cancel but cancel too many rides and you could be deactivated. The precise threshold is never specified, making the threat even more effective. In other words, Uber’s “independent contractors” have to play the game by Uber’s rules and using Uber’s measurements of their performance. In the final analysis, Uber/Lyft engineers call the shots – even though in name drivers are independent.

Lyft Line:  Lyft’s version of UberPOOL. Equally distasteful to drivers.

PAX/pax: Drivers’ abbreviation for passenger. Pax come in all shapes and varieties. Some are sober.  Some are drunk.  Some are nice. Some are not nice. All passengers share one quality – they all want to get from Point A to Point B quickly, safely and cheaply.  If you as a driver can keep that one thing in mind, you’ll do just fine with all passengers whoever and whatever they are.

Periods 1 through 3You will want insurance for all three of these periods, but luckily they’re not too hard to understand:

  • Period 1 – Online & WITHOUT a ride request
  • Period 2 – Online & WITH a ride request (en route to pick-up, waiting for rider to come out, etc)
  • Period 3 – Online & with rider in car

Uber and Lyft only cover periods 2 and 3. Most rideshare endorsements (add on coverage to your existing auto insurance policy) will cover you for all three periods.

Pickup:  Often the most problematic aspect of being a driver, especially on busy downtown streets where there’s no place to legally pull over. Messy pickups are a constant source of frustration for drivers.

Ping:  That melodious sound that emanates from your smartphone when a passenger requests a ride. It’s named because of the distinctive and arresting sound the app makes.  You know you’ve been driving too long when you start hearing pings in your sleep.

Pee in the Pool: Irreverent driver response to UberPOOL. Ignoring the request or accepting and immediately canceling.

Prime Time: Lyft’s version of Uber’s surge.

Rideshare Insurance:  The kind of insurance that most drivers should have but don’t.  It’s a specific product with specific terms for drivers, designed by some insurance companies in response to the explosion of this new kind of quasi-professional driver. Uber/Lyft don’t check so most just drive without it and hope nothing bad happens. [Editor’s note: We don’t recommend rideshare driving without insurance. You can read what happens if you get into an accident here and you can find an insurance agent in your state here.]

Ridesharing:  Orwellian term to describe what the Uber and Lyft apps make possible. The Associated Press advises use of the term “ridehailing” instead because there’s no true sharing in ridesharing  – except the sharing of stories.

Surge: Controversial Uber practice of charging passengers some multiple of a normal fare usually expressed in the form of 2.3x.  Uber defends surge saying it’s their way of balancing supply of riders with passenger demand.  Critics say it’s just Uber’s way of gouging customers at their time of greatest need.

TCP: The license issued to commercial drivers in California by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)

TKTravis Kalanick, Uber’s former CEO.

TLC licensingTaxi and Limousine Commission licensing in New York City.

TNC:  Abbreviation for Transportation Network Companies, which is what the regulators call the Uber and Lyfts of the world.  Taxi drivers hate the classification because, they argue, it tilts the playing field towards TNCs.  Ongoing battle …

TOSTerms of Service. These are the terms you probably agreed to without reading. These terms are now subject to some of the lawsuits Uber and Lyft are facing.

UberPOOL: Multiple pickups and dropoffs in the same ride.  Seldom works smoothly but (until recently) PAX got lower fare.  Most drivers hate it because they’re constantly interrupted by new ride requests often distracting them from the road or passenger interaction.  The only drivers who like UberPOOL are those who are working towards a bonus and need to reach X number of rides to meet their target.

Underage Passenger:  Anyone who is trying to use the Uber or Lyft platform who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. Always a headache for drivers.  Do you refuse the ride, forfeit the fare and write off your driving time there as a complete waste?  Or do you just look the other way and give them a ride?   [Exception: UberTEEN]

Drivers, did we miss any lingo? Let us know in the comments and let us know what you think of this guide to rideshare lingo!

-John @ RSG