Uber is adding a little bit of color to make it easier for drivers and riders to find each other.
The ride-sharing service said Thursday it's testing a feature in Seattle that uses color to connect drivers and passengers. The new tech, dubbed Spot, lets a rider select a color in Uber's smartphone app. When their driver arrives, a Spot device attached to the windshield glows with that color so the rider can easily find it.
Ride-hailing services that connect passengers with drivers via smartphone apps like to proclaim their superiority over traditional taxicabs. Those old-school taxis, however, do have at least one advantage: you can easily pick them out on a crowded city street by their color, the make of the car and the "taxi" light on top. Drivers for the likes of Uber or Lyft typically use their own cars, which makes them largely anonymous, even with a "U" placard or a pink mustache on the dash.
Using matching colors to connect drivers with passengers can decrease the amount of time both have to wait to find each other. It's a clever innovation that benefits not just customers but also Uber as it continues to compete with rival service Lyft as well as with traditional taxi and limousine services.
As part of the initial experiment, some Uber drivers in Seattle have already equipped their vehicles with a Spot device. After a rider requests a ride from a Spot-enabled driver, the rider selects a color in the Uber app. They can chose from yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue or green. In the case of dark conditions, the rider can even light up their phone's screen with the chosen color so the driver can quickly spot them.
San Francisco-based Uber has recently cooked up other ways to improve the experience for both drivers and riders. In November, the company said it formed a safety advisory group to respond to concerns about insufficient driver background checks and overall security. In October, Uber revamped its Partner app to give drivers advice on how to make more money and offer a better ride to passengers.
Uber is trying to expand its service in more cities and countries. The company has faced a range of obstacles, including opposition from taxi and limousine services, regulatory issues and bans from various cities, a lawsuit from drivers over complaints that they're classified as independent contractors rather than employees and reports of Uber drivers assaulting passengers.