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    Uber recently announced a new feature for drivers called Area Preferences. While this is still a developing story, we had senior RSG contributor Sergio Avedian take a first look at it. What is the new Area Preferences feature, and which drivers will it benefit most?

    I have been driving pretty much every weekend and averaging $50 an hour on the Uber app. How do I do that with pitiful base rates in Los Angeles (60 cents a mile/ 21 cents a minute)?

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    I only drive when and where there is demand, and according to the Show Me The Money Club (SMTMC) rules, I make sure all my incentives overlap each other. 

    Uber has been the go-to app for me as a driver and a passenger lately. They are constantly offering tools to aid in driver flexibility. Mostly these are cosmetic changes that are meaningless to a driver’s bottom line, but the new Area Preferences tool, especially for part-timers, may be what drivers have been asking about for years. 

    I have written about how I deploy Uber’s Destination Filter (DF) effectively many times in the past. I can squeeze the algorithm to feed me what type of rides I want, especially if I want to stay in the Hot Zone. 

    Area Preferences is in addition to the DF. I will explain it in detail below with its possible pros and cons for drivers.

    Quick summary:

    • Area Preferences is a new driver tool that you can use in addition to your destination filters
    • If this looks familiar, Uber did introduce Area Preferences in certain test markets over two years ago
    • Area Preferences feature will be best for part-time drivers

    Uber’s New Area Preferences

    In short, this may be a wonderful addition to my existing 2 destination filters, especially if I want to stay within an area for a certain period of time.

    Now you can stay in an area of your choice for two hours a day with Uber Area Preferences.

    Turn on the Area Preferences on your app, if it is available in your city, then check the areas you want to stay in. Uber says that the algorithm will only send you requests that start and finish in the zones you select in your driver app. 

    Take a look at the screenshots above, and note there are specific instructions about how Area Preferences will affect your airport pickups, especially when you are in the queue. 

    Have you seen Area Preference before? You’re not imagining things! Uber rolled out Area Preference a little over two years ago in certain markets:

    How to Set Area Preferences in Your Driver App

    On the front page of your driver app, in the lower-left corner, to the left of the GO next to You’re Offline button, there is a tab that will take you to the Driver Preferences screen as seen below. This is where you can choose if you want to deliver food, packages or only do rideshare. 

    Right under the Trip Filters, you will see the New Area Preferences Tab. 

    Once you toggle the slider to the right you will see this screen:

    In my case, it seems like Uber has broken Los Angeles County up into six major areas. On the first screenshot above you can see where I am located. Then I went ahead and unselected all but one Preferred Area where I want to give rides for two hours of my choosing, which is the San Fernando Valley. 

    After careful examination, it covers a massive area, including Santa Clarita which is 15 miles north of my house, and as far south as Studio City which is 12 miles away. This looks like a 15-square-mile area to me, which would take me at least 30 minutes to drive end to end without traffic.

    As Uber suggests, the more zones you choose to drive in, the more ride requests you will receive. You can even select all the zones that cover all of Los Angeles county. If you do, Uber will not send you to Orange County in the south or to Ventura County in the west. 

    The most ride requests are generated in West LA to DTLA/East LA, so it may be wise to pick those areas if you can only dedicate two hours for your driving on a specific day.

    Takeaways for Drivers: Pros and Cons of Area Preferences

    Uber rarely does anything that is purely beneficial to the driver, at least from my years of driving experience. However, let’s say that this new feature gives the driver more flexibility in certain areas where they prefer to drive and where they are more productive.

    This may not affect full-time drivers much since it is only for 2 hours a day. However, for part-timers, you now may be able to set Area Preferences and stay closer to home or to busier parts of the city. 

    Pros

    • More flexibility
    • Driving in an area that is familiar
    • No more trips to the middle of nowhere and wondering how to get back
    • Less dead miles
    • Less wear and tear on your car

    Cons

    • Only two hours a day 
    • Possible surge killer in morning and afternoon rush hour
    • A lot of drivers will flock to a certain area lowering your Utilization Rate (UR)
    • Uber trying to secure supply in a busy area and lower Incentives
    • Airports are excluded 

    To be honest, I like this new tool we’ve been given. I could use this as an additional destination filter. 

    I have not tested it yet, but this may be what a lot of part-time drivers like me wanted. Will it be as lucrative to drive in just a specific zone as it would be if I were in the city center? Probably not. But for two hours a day, I feel like freedom and flexibility received a boost.

    Is Area Preferences available in your city? Let us know!


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    -Sergio @ RSG

    Sergio Avedian

    Sergio Avedian

    Sergio has been driving Uber and Lyft for about five years. He has over 6000 rides on both platforms, mostly on Uber. Sergio has a degree in finance, and worked on Wall St. for over eighteen years. In his free time, he still trades stocks and derivatives for himself and a few friends. He is also a PGA certified golf instructor, teaching golf is his passion. Sergio is married with two wonderful kids who take the rest of his afternoons/weekends between their soccer practices and golf tournaments.