Uber launches ‘Spotlight’ feature to flag drivers

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Uber wants to make sure your future rides go smoother. 

The ride-hailing startup is launching a slew of new features that are aimed at connecting drivers with riders and should also help minimize the need to cancel your trip altogether.

The first of such tools, called ‘Spotlight, allows riders to turn their screen a specific color, so as to flag down their driver in a crowded location.

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Uber is launching a slew of new features that are aimed at connecting drivers with riders. The first of such tools, called 'Spotlight', displays a unique color on the rider's screen (pictured)

Uber is launching a slew of new features that are aimed at connecting drivers with riders. The first of such tools, called 'Spotlight', displays a unique color on the rider's screen (pictured)

Uber is launching a slew of new features that are aimed at connecting drivers with riders. The first of such tools, called ‘Spotlight’, displays a unique color on the rider’s screen (pictured)

‘When you’re in crowded areas or it’s nighttime, it can be hard for you and your driver to find one another,’ Ryan Yu, senior product manager of Rider Experience at Uber, said in a blog post. 

‘With Spotlight, you can light up your phone with a special color specific to your driver. 

‘Your driver will receive a message telling them what color to look for, so you can just hold your phone in the air,’ he added 

The feature builds on another feature Uber rolled out last year, called Beacon. 

With Beacon, drivers place a glowing Uber logo on the windshield of their car in the color of the rider’s choosing, so that they can avoid getting into the wrong vehicle. 

However, Beacon is only available in a limited number of cities and on select cars, so Uber is launching Spotlight as a way to better enable two-way communication between users and drivers as their ride arrives.

It should also help reduce stress when a rider orders an Uber outside a crowded event, such as a concert or sports game, where many other people may be ordering a car at the same time. 

Spotlight will only be available to riders when their driver doesn’t already have Beacon.

Beacons are available for drivers in 14 cities.  

It’s one of several other ways that Uber is trying to reduce stress for riders as they wait for their driver to arrive. 

‘When the driver has not yet arrived at the pickup location, there’s this resounding sense of stress on their part, because they don’t know what to look for necessarily,’ Yu said, according to the Verge

‘All they have is the pin and the address. We’re trying to give them more context.’

Alongside Spotlight, Uber is launching guaranteed pickup windows where riders can be assured their driver will arrive on time.

Now, riders can schedule a ride ahead of time, set a time period that they’d like their driver to arrive and if they don’t arrive on time, Uber will issue the user a $10 credit to use toward another trip. 

Spotlight should help reduce stress when a rider orders an Uber outside a crowded event, such as a concert or sports game, where many other people may be ordering a car at the same time

Spotlight should help reduce stress when a rider orders an Uber outside a crowded event, such as a concert or sports game, where many other people may be ordering a car at the same time

Spotlight should help reduce stress when a rider orders an Uber outside a crowded event, such as a concert or sports game, where many other people may be ordering a car at the same time

Uber is launching guaranteed pickup windows where riders can be assured their driver will arrive on time. If it doesn't arrive during the time period, Uber will credit riders

Uber is launching guaranteed pickup windows where riders can be assured their driver will arrive on time. If it doesn't arrive during the time period, Uber will credit riders

Uber is launching guaranteed pickup windows where riders can be assured their driver will arrive on time. If it doesn’t arrive during the time period, Uber will credit riders

Uber first rolled out pre-scheduled pickups in 2016, allowing riders to book a trip up to 30 days in advance. 

The new feature should give riders greater peace of mind if they’re trying to catach an early flight or make an important meeting, Uber said. 

The firm is also building on its in-app messaging tool by giving riders the option to send pre-written messages. 

As usual, messages are read aloud to the driver so that they’re not distracted from the road. 

Riders can notify their driver of what they’re wearing so that they can spot them more easily, or inform their driver that they’ll be right there. 

‘Sometimes you want to give your driver a little extra detail ahead of the pickup,’ Yu wrote in the blog post. 

The firm is building on its in-app messaging tool by giving riders the option to send pre-written messages. Messages are read aloud to the driver so that they're not distracted from the road

The firm is building on its in-app messaging tool by giving riders the option to send pre-written messages. Messages are read aloud to the driver so that they're not distracted from the road

The firm is building on its in-app messaging tool by giving riders the option to send pre-written messages. Messages are read aloud to the driver so that they’re not distracted from the road

HOW UBER BEACON WORKS 

If an Uber beacon is installed, after they’ve confirmed a ride request, the rider’s app prompts them to choose a color. 

When the driver arrives, the beacon turns that color.  

Drivers can install it themselves rapidly, and remove it quickly too.

According to Uber, the beacon has a powerful battery and Bluetooth connection to the Uber driver app, and can last several evenings without charge, while keeping the dashboard area free of cables.

‘Now it’s even easier to share a tip (“I’m wearing a red jacket”), or send your driver a quick pre-populated update like “be right there” with a single tap.

‘We designed Pickup Messages to encourage safe driving: your messages are read aloud, and drivers can simply tap to respond,’ he continued. 

Yu told TechCrunch that drivers tend to feel more reassured when riders sent a message because they know that the user is on their way, leading to fewer cancellations. 

Uber is looking at adding automatic translation to the feature so that international drivers can easily communicate with their riders, no matter what language they speak.

The new tools will arrive for Android and iOS users in Canada and the US beginning today.  



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