Uber is experimenting with giving a key decision-making power to drivers, making good on its “be your own boss” tagline.
The ride-hailing company is testing a “drop-off area filter” that lets drivers choose where they go. “We will only send you trips that have a drop-off location within the areas you have selected,” reads a message introducing the feature, which was shared by drivers in multiple online forums. “The more areas you select, the more trips you’ll likely get. And you can update your preference at any time.”
Uber confirmed to Quartz that it is conducting a “small” test of the drop-off area filter. A spokesman declined to specify where the feature is being tested but said the drop-off zones drivers can opt into are large swaths of a city rather than individual neighborhoods. Drivers on Reddit reported spotting the feature in Boston and Toronto. ”We are committed to our mission of reliable transportation, everywhere for everyone,” the spokesman said in an emailed statement.
More than 2 million people drive for Uber worldwide and more than 600,000 in the US. The company hires these drivers as independent contractors and advertises the flexibility that they get by working on the Uber platform. But while drivers have long had control over their hours—they can sign on and off Uber freely—they’ve historically had little to no control over where Uber’s routing algorithms take them.
Uber doesn’t tell drivers where the drop-off is before they accept an incoming ride request. The company has said it does this to prevent drivers from discriminating against passengers heading to poorer and less accessible neighborhoods, which have historically been underserved by the taxi industry. The system can frustrate drivers, especially when a ride takes them far from other prospective customers.
Giving drivers more control over their destinations could go a long way toward addressing this pain point. Quartz reported Aug. 15 that Uber is also testing a “long trip” feature that warns drivers when a ride is likely to last over an hour.
Uber has committed to improving its frayed relations with drivers. In late June, the company debuted a sweeping campaign to improve the driver experience, titled “180 Days of Change.” As part of that Uber added a tipping option to its rides and food-delivery apps and tweaked its ratings system so that riders are asked to justify when they leave a driver less than five stars.
Until now, Uber’s main effort to give drivers control over where the app took them was a setting called “driver destination.” Launched in the Bay Area in November 2015, driver destination lets drivers set a personal destination and find riders along the way. Uber has since expanded driver destination to all US Uber driver, though it limits the feature’s use to twice a day.
This story was updated to include additional information from Uber.