People have all sorts of feelings about Uber’s new “quiet mode.” (Just don’t ask them to voice those feelings when they’re inside the car, because, well, you know.)
Earlier this week, Uber rolled out options for riders to customize their trips. Need help with luggage? On it. Need extra time to reach your pickup spot? Yep, okay. Want to control the temperature of your car before you even get in? Um, sure.
None of the perks, though, drew quite as much chatter as Uber’s new “quiet mode.” Think of it like a self-enforced Amtrak Quiet Car. Or your own personal library. Or a somewhat awkward drive from point A to point B in which you communicate to your driver that you don’t want them talking to you.
For its part, Uber said it wouldn’t use the data to pair individual riders with drivers. And the ride-hailing giant said it wouldn’t add an additional cost for the perks, which are available for Uber Black and Uber Black SUV rides.
Granted, the reaction wasn’t all negative. And some said the quiet option is actually appreciated. For example, some said that being able to tell your driver that you’d rather limit the conversation accommodates riders with anxiety who may prefer not to chat. Others said that the tool is especially useful for deaf riders and those who often get into their rides and have to “lipread the back of someone’s head.”
“I’m not always in the mood to pretend to understand and do the fake smile and nod thing,” one person wrote on Twitter.
Praise for silent rides also came from many female passengers who are all-too familiar with male drivers steering conversations toward inappropriate comments or “uncomfortable personal/romantic/sexual territory,” as one woman tweeted. The new option isn’t just about talking vs. zoning out, the women said. Instead, it allow riders “to decide if they’d rather be creeped out by conversation or silence,” another woman wrote.
Uber has long struggled with what employees describe as a toxic company culture — and one that some allege hasn’t gone away. Female workers have said the company did nothing on allegations of sexual harassment within its ranks. The company’s longtime chief executive was pushed out, and a subsequent report on Uber’s workplace culture suggested the company scale back on alcohol at work events. In May 2018, Uber announced it would no longer bar passengers, drivers or employees from speaking publicly about sexual harassment or assault complaints brought against the company. Most recently, after Uber’s initial public offering, employees raised concerns about work celebrations that made them feel uncomfortable.
For any benefits of the “quiet mode,” there were still calls for Uber to take its accessibility options a step (or two or three) further. Staying quiet is one way to make deaf riders or those who are often the target of inappropriate advances feel more comfortable. But that doesn’t mean that with the click of a button, all rides everywhere are equally accommodating for everyone.
“We need more accessibility options,” one Twitter user said.