Downtime between rides is a major problem for rideshare drivers. You’re not making money. You question whether you should stay still and save on gas or search for a better location. All the while you’re bored and not making any money.
Uber has rolled out a new feature today that’s designed to help with this problem and improve the Uber experience for passengers as well. A new feature allows drivers to accept ride requests while they are still currently driving another passenger. The Uber app had not previously allowed drivers to receive ride requests while they were on a trip. This new feature increases the supply of drivers available for rides and should reduce wait time for passengers.
The new back-to-back rides feature allows drivers to accept ride requests when they are near the end of a trip. For drivers, this means that you can really get into the zone by getting back-to-back rides where the drop-off location of the first ride is close to the pick-up location of the next ride. As a rideshare driver, getting back-to-back fares keeps you motivated as your earnings can add up quickly and you’re not wasting time or gas.
While this could seem to cause drivers to earn more, it also means that drivers without current requests are now competing with some of the drivers that are currently on a trip. This could mean that some drivers are getting several requests back-to-back, while others are getting slightly fewer requests. While this disparity should even out for each driver over the long run, it also makes optimizing your rideshare driving more important than ever. Drivers that know which locations to go to can now capitalize on their street smarts even more.
For passengers, the ETA’s should be slightly reduced, which will obviously make them happy. The only potential downside is that drivers might be somewhat distracted when they are receiving a request and deciding whether to accept it during a trip. The small window drivers have to accept ride requests means that they can’t always wait until they’re stopped to accept a request. It’s unclear if this will be an issue, but Uber did some testing of this feature and decided to roll it out globally anyway, so they must feel that this risk isn’t serious.
As usual, the real winner is Uber’s network. Drivers will have to drive slightly less of a distance to get to passengers, and passengers get their rides slightly faster. These small improvements do add up for the network’s users, but they’re even bigger for Uber’s brand. Making drivers and passengers just a tiny bit happier can improve driver retention, reduce recruiting costs, increase the supply of drivers, increase ride requests when passengers are on-the-fence about how long they can wait for a ride, and motivate the best drivers to optimize even more.
All of these little improvements that Uber continues to make should add up to huge payoffs for the company in the long run.
Also published on Medium.