Today, RSG contributor Jon Knope takes a look at a big change to the way Uber handles uberPOOL requests. It doesn’t seem like a change drivers were asking for, but is it that bad?
There have been a few changes to the Uber driver app recently, but the biggest has to do with the way uberPOOL passengers are now handled. Here’s the lowdown on what’s changed, and the mixed reaction the new update has received in the weeks since.
Automatic Second POOL Requests
Before the last app update, uberPOOL requests would appear like any other – the familiar “ping” sound, followed by a brief window for you to tap the request and accept the pickup. When you received a second uberPOOL request, you had to tap to accept it, just like any other request.
With the new update though, once you’re on that first uberPOOL ride, the Uber app will now automatically add new passengers to the route without requiring you to press anything. You’ll still receive a notification when other riders are found – but you won’t need to tap to accept, nor will you need to take your eyes off the road to point your phone’s GPS towards the new passenger. Now, your navigation app will automatically begin directing you towards the additional riders.
I never got an e-mail from Uber (or maybe I just missed it) but here’s what they sent out to some drivers. It would appear that based off drivers’ ‘feedback’, this feature was added. This feature wasn’t too high on drivers’ priority lists, so I think more than anything, Uber was finding many drivers were ignoring the second uberPOOL request, so they are now forcing drivers to accept it.
iOS Version Loses Support For Google Maps, Waze
Unfortunately, this update also doesn’t seem to mesh well with Apple’s iOS (see why Harry likes his Android Galaxy S7). So if you have an iPhone, you’ll notice that all uberPOOL navigation now happens via Uber’s own proprietary in-app GPS – with no option for automatic switching to Google Maps or Waze when you tap the “Navigate” button. Our tentative conclusion is that something in iOS prevents the Uber app from silently updating your destination in a separate navigation app. On Android, however, the new update works fine – both Google Maps and Waze will direct you to the updated destination automatically as requests come in.
If you really don’t like Uber’s directions and you’re on iOS, you can always switch to your preferred maps app and enter the new destination manually – but if you’re already on the road with a passenger, it’s probably easier to just bite the bullet and stick with Uber’s GPS on uberPOOL rides.
“Go Offline After This Ride”
Some drivers have tried getting out of these forced matches by using the ‘Go offline’ button. This option stops new requests from queuing up after you finish the ride you’re currently on. However, it doesn’t mean you won’t receive additional uberPOOL requests. Instead, the app filters out new uberPOOL riders who need to go further than the first rider. For instance, let’s say my first uberPOOL rider needs to go 20 miles north. After enabling the “Go Offline” option, I may still receive pickups for other passengers headed 10 or 15 miles North – but I won’t receive a rider who needs to go more than 20 miles.
Astute drivers will also notice that over-using this option will result in it being disabled for a period of time, so bear this in mind if you rely on this feature often.
Pros: Safety, Ease-Of-Use
When uberPOOL first debuted, drivers were quick to point out second POOL requests required them to mess with their phone while driving. And this was definitely a hazard – it’s dangerous to be tapping away on your phone, trying to accept a request and recalculate your route, while already in motion with a passenger. With the latest update, you’ll no longer find yourself in this situation – instead, GPS will be ready to take you to the new passenger immediately. All you’ll need to do is keep following the directions.
Note: This is how Lyft Line rides have worked from the beginning.
Of course, you may still get stuck trying to make a tricky U-turn into that shopping center you just passed – but these situations are not uncommon with regular Uber rides, either. And with automatic updating, at least your GPS should be in agreement with the decision!
Cons: More Potential For Delays
With the new automatic acceptance feature, the first passenger you pick up may be stuck with you for much longer than they intended. POOL rides can match with any number of other passengers, as long as there’s room in the car, but in my experience, POOL riders never really anticipate any significant delays. In fact, they may not even realize how POOL works – they may have chosen it just because it’s cheaper. If you’re on a POOL ride that gets matched with multiple other passengers, you can expect that your first passenger, frustrated with the delay, may be less inclined to give you a 5-star rating.
You do have the option to cancel the subsequent POOL requests after they come in. This, of course, negates all the safety benefits of automatic acceptance – you’ll need to switch back to the Uber app, open the menu, tap cancel, and then select a reason for the cancellation, which adds up to quite a few seconds. And it will also negatively impact your cancellation rate.
Overall: A Mixed Bag
Drivers also point out the forced addition of extra POOL passengers is a bit incongruent with the fact that we’re all independent contractors. I’m no legal expert, so I can’t comment on whether this new practice is actually in violation of the terms of the Uber Partner agreement – although given that Uber has been to court pretty frequently over the years, I suspect their team of lawyers went over this new procedure pretty thoroughly before giving it the green light.
I will say that Uber’s recent decision not to deactivate drivers with low acceptance rates is right on time. The best way to avoid the potential pitfalls of automatic POOL rides is to simply ignore that first uberPOOL request. Of course, if you have to ignore tons of POOL requests every time you log on, you may spend more hours in time-out than on the road – but the option is there, in theory, and that’s a lot better than nothing.
Drivers: What do you think of automatic Pool rides – major improvement, or major headache? How would you change it? Let us know below!
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