On crowded city streets, finding an Uber can be a pain. The cars don’t stand out like taxicabs, for one. And GPS issues can land you on one side of the street while your car is parked on the other.
And we’ve all heard those stories of riders getting into the wrong car.
Uber thinks it has a solution. Its new “SPOT” feature connects drivers and passengers using colored lights.
The program, being piloted in Seattle, works like this: drivers attach a SPOT device, a type of LED wand, to their windshields. Riders matched with a SPOT-enabled driver can then choose a color in the app while waiting for their car.
When the car arrives, Uber says, the LED wand will glow in the chosen color — yellow, orange, hot pink, purple, turquoise or green, according to a mock-up. Riders can even hold up their phones, screens lit the color of their choice, to help the driver locate them.
“Pick a color to make your Uber’s windshield glow,” reads an on-screen prompt. Per Uber’s announcement last week:
“SPOT is the latest experiment in our ongoing effort to make Uber pickups as seamless as possible. When riders and drivers can easily find each other, we’re able to trim down wait times, which is a win for everyone.”
The company has long been trying to optimize its service in pursuit of “The Perfect Trip.” The average wait time for a ride in D.C. is three minutes, 30 seconds, according to figures provided to Newsweek last year. If the new feature can be shown to trim wait times, it is likely to be expanded beyond the Pacific Northwest.
In an email, the company said the feature is being rolled out to “a couple hundred” drivers in Seattle. The device itself, the company says, contains LEDs that light up in different colors and patterns.
Immediate plans to expand the program beyond Seattle have not been announced, Uber said.