Whenever I type my address in Uber, the GPS directs drivers to a location about a block away. I tried dropping a pin at my location and just walking down the street, but finally settled on texting drivers whenever I request a ride and just telling them where I am.
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It works well when I’m requesting a car on my own, but occasionally confuses drivers when I’m pickup #2 in a Pool and they’re not sure who is contacting them. Now, Uber is making the whole process a whole lot simpler by doing what they probably should have done in the first place, and rolling out in-app messaging.
Currently, Uber anonymises phone numbers when you send text through the app, the better to prevent riders and drivers from sending each other unwanted texts or making unwanted calls, or passing out personal information. This is all well and good for privacy purposes, but if your driver messages or calls you and you’re not expecting it, it can seem like a random number is contacting you (and vice versa), something that can get especially confusing in a Pool scenario.
With in-app messaging, you’ll know that the message is from your Uber driver, and your Uber driver will know it’s “Emily” sending a message, not “Bob” or “Tony” whom he’s also picking up on the same trip. Chats are sent using the same contact button you previously used to send texts. Uber has also included read receipts, so even if you don’t hear back from your driver you can tell that he or she likely saw your message.
While a driver is on the road, chat messages will be read aloud to them, so they don’t have to take their eyes off the road, certainly a safety improvement over them struggling to read SMS. A single tap on the app will send the rider a thumbs up emoji, acknowledging the message has been received.
The opportunity to chat with your driver ends the second your ride does, so you’re still dodging that unwanted call/text bullet. An Uber representative told me that the company is looking into potentially adding the ability to use in-app messaging to find lost items later on, but that won’t be available at launch. From an outside perspective, that seems to open up that whole “giving the creepy driver that was hitting on me my number” door again, so I’d rather they didn’t, although at least in-app I presume they’d have a record of the interaction and could fire him a little quicker.
In-app messaging is rolling out to riders and drivers globally over the next few weeks.