Uber and Lyft Are Letting Some Drivers See Where Passengers Are Going

Well, that didn’t last very long. I’m Christian from The Rideshare Guy, and today we’re going to talk about Uber and Lyft’s attempted test of the estimated ride time, which is the ability for you to see how long your next ride is going to be before you accept it.

Uber and Lyft are experimenting with letting you see passenger direction

Uber went a step further in their test, and they also told you how long and the general direction. Huge, great stuff. Everybody loved it, so naturally they killed it. All right, so about two months ago, Uber and Lyft started rolling out a pilot which would show drivers the estimated ride time for their next ride before accepting the request. So let’s say you’re hanging out in a parking lot and you’re waiting for your next ride to show up, you get your request, badink … that’s the phone noise. And you see the next ride’s going to be four minutes long and maybe it’s three to five minutes away.

You have a lot more information on the acceptance screen before you accept this ride, this job, before dedicating yourself to do it. It’s extremely valuable, because for drivers, it feels like we’re actually being treated like bonafide contractors versus this weird sort of, you’re a contractor but you also have to do exactly what we tell you, take what we give you kind of mentality.

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Uber temporarily showed estimated trip time and passenger direction

Uber’s pilot again would show you the time and direction, you had to have a 80% acceptance rate of your rides in order to see it, so I think that’s actually pretty smart because it’s good to kind of incentivize drivers to complete most of their rides I think. But 20% is still a lot of wiggle room. Uber did this test in Orlando, New Jersey, Nashville, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Baltimore, and Tulsa, and I thought it was a good test. I really liked this feature, then the way that they rolled it out and did it. I’m hoping Uber will roll it out to the rest of us, because we need it.

We need more info of our rides, especially honestly where the rate cards are so low that we’re often driving five or 10 minutes to get a minimum fare request, and if you’re in a market that has a $3 or $5 minimum fare, then the driver’s going to bring $2.75. It’s a complete waste of time. That’s another subject.

Lyft only showed estimated ride time

Lyft ended their test on August 20th, but they had tested it for about a month or so, and it was available for platinum drivers. Now again, Lyft would just show you the estimated ride time. That’s still a lot of information to use though, because in this example we see it’s going to be a four minute ride, AKA a $2.75 minimum fare, but it was 14 minutes away so that’s definitely one I’m not going to take. No thank you.

Why won’t they release this feature to all drivers?

Why haven’t Uber and Lyft just released this feature? It’s popular with drivers, it gives us more information, it makes the job a lot easier, right? The reason they haven’t is because it increases ETAs for passengers, and Uber and Lyft and the data science people there and all the tech wonks, they strongly believe that whichever company has the lowest ETA, which is the time from when a passenger hits the “Request ride” button to the time that the car rolls up, whoever has that shortest amount of time there is going to win the rideshare wars or have market dominance.

If they deploy a feature, I think in this case they weren’t testing it to see whether or not drivers liked it. Of course we like it. It helps us run our business. They’re testing it to see how it affected ETAs. Now, my guess is that drivers probably took a lot of advantage of it. I see three things that kind of happened here. So I think a lot of drivers just flat out refused short distance trips like in the example above where you can see something’s going to be a four minute ride, that’s minimum fare, 14 minutes away, but I could also see if I’m not feeling really energetic and I spend 20 minutes between a ride and I get a thing that says, “Estimated ride time four minutes,” and even if it’s five minutes to pick them up, I know it’s going to be about 20 minutes worth of work for $2.75, so yeah, I’d probably still decline it even then.

And conversely, if I see it’s estimated ride time 60 minutes and there’s no surge or prime time on it, then there’s a good chance I’m going to decline it too, because if I’m in a large market it’s going to take me to the middle of nowhere, and I may not want to do that trip so that’s the second reason. The trips are too long.

The third reason I think drivers may end up declining or kind of overusing this feature is that analysis paralysis, right? So you’re sitting and you’re waiting for a request, I think a lot of folks are going to try to wait for the optimum ride or the best ride, so drivers are just probably a little bit more choosy in general, and that probably all these three of these things sort of increased the ETA times for passengers.

Do independent contractors deserve to get this info?

Now, I personally would argue that as independent contractors, I think we deserve to see this information before accepting a ride request, especially since recent lawsuits have sort of acknowledged, especially in Lyft’s settlement, that a driver has a right to deny a request on the acceptance screen.

They give us the minimum amount of information on the acceptance screen hoping that we’ll accept it. How many drivers would just cherry pick all of their rides under this sort of test, right? And I think it’s not that big of a difference overall.

Will this feature make cherry picking worse, or keep it the same?

I think those who cherry pick over the last four years, there are drivers who do cherry picking, they’ve always done that. They’re always going to do that, and their strategy involves taking the highest surge rides or the best rides or this or that, whatever it may be. Whether or not this feature is here, it’ll help them cherry pick but those people are already cherry picking, so I’m sure they’re just going to keep doing it no matter what feature there is.

Personally, I didn’t have this feature, but I know that I probably would’ve just focused on using it in a way to filter out the worst case requests. Because if I sit around all day and I’m trying to just pick on the best rides, then I know that I’m probably not going to make that much money. And this is kind of hard to get started, so I’d still probably accept most requests.

But what it would be really useful for is seeing if I’m going to be taken 10 minutes out of my way and then another hour out of my way. Sorry, I can’t do that, I have to be somewhere in an hour. So cases like that, I think being able to see this is really valuable and if you do have that, that’s how I would probably advise using it. So don’t try to cherry pick or select only rides you want, because you will get better margin rides but you’re going to spend a lot of time just sitting around denying requests and not getting much done.

That’s how I would advise using this if you get it in the future. I just wish we still had it. It’s like we all got excited, Uber and Lyft have been talking about wanting to make these app improvements, and honestly they kind of have to if they want to keep drivers around, because we know they sure as hell aren’t going to pay us more, so they’ve got to make the job a little bit easier, and even then I still think no matter how good the apps get, there’s still going to be a lot of friction over keeping drivers because the pay sucks.

I’m Christian from The Rideshare Guy, and make sure you like, comment, subscribe, share this with your mom, share it with your friends, show it to your cat. But until next time, keep your hands on the wheel, your wheels on the ground, have a nice day.


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