Uber may replace its five-star driver rating system with emoji

Counting to five can get confusing.
Counting to five can get confusing.
Image: Reuters/Mike Blake
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Uber’s five-star rating system for drivers could soon be replaced with something even simpler.

The company is currently testing out new ratings systems in a handful of markets that include a choice of “thumbs up/thumbs down,” emoji smiles and other options that give passengers a basic choice of good or bad, Singapore-based Uber spokesperson Karun Arya told Quartz.

The global initiative was started by Uber’s San Francisco headquarters, Arya said, and will initially only affect a handful of users around the world. He couldn’t immediately name all the markets involved, or discuss many of the details, but judging from surprised Uber users on Twitter, they include Singapore and Austin, Texas:

Here’s what one Uber user in Singapore saw after finishing a ride:

And another in Texas:

Uber’s five-star rating system is a major source of conflict between the company and its drivers. If drivers’ ratings drop below a 4.6, they can be booted off of Uber, a fact that many passengers don’t realize. Consumers who are used to rating restaurants and hotels are likely to think a four-star rating isn’t too bad, not knowing that they could actually be costing their driver his job.

Drivers argue these restrictions show that Uber controls their work environment, and they should therefore be given full benefits as employees, although they are treated as independent contractors. The company faces protests and lawsuits from drivers, most notably a serious class-action lawsuit in California that could upend its business model.

Reducing Uber’s rating system to “good/bad” could potentially weaken the argument that Uber is acting as an employer, if it indeed minimizes undue firings. Research also shows that using a “Pass/fail” grading system in school, as opposed to the US’s “A-F” scale, reduces stress and improves group cohesion.

For Uber, making drivers happy right now gets a thumbs up.