Uber is putting Pandora tunes in the driver's seat

Drivers can now play Pandora through the ride-hailing company's driver app, ahead of a plan to roll out Pandora for riders in Uber cars too.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

Uber added Pandora to its driver app Monday, so that chauffeurs can stream its digital radio and toggle between stations while better keeping their eyes on the road.

It's the ride-hailing company's second music partnership, after 2014's launch of in-car Spotify listening for riders. That let people who subscribe to Spotify play tracks through an Uber car's speakers.

But that perk is on pause for several weeks, as Uber plans to roll out a revamped system for riders to manage music from both Spotify and Pandora during their rides. The company wouldn't specify how it will prioritize driver musical desires and rider song preferences when they clash after both parties have tools to control the tunes, but Uber said it would clarify those details soon.

With the Pandora partnership Monday, Uber said it wanted to launch with drivers first, after riders were emphasized in the Spotify partnership. Drivers will get complementary ad-free Pandora music for the next six months, saving them the $4.99 a month of a Pandora One subscription. The data eaten up by streaming will count against drivers' own carrier limits, but Uber noted that Pandora streams free for T-Mobile customers and that AT&T, Verizon and Sprint offer discounts to Uber drivers.

It's available to Uber drivers in the three countries in which Pandora operates: the US, Australia and New Zealand. Drivers can play Pandora by connecting their phones to car speakers with Bluetooth, which Pandora said the majority of drivers already do, or they can plug in a physical auxiliary cable.

Pandora said it has considered the idea of targeted playlists for people listening through Uber's driver app -- a station of music to keep you alert while driving at night, for example -- as well as how a coming on-demand tier and Ticketfly integration could mesh with Uber services. But none of those are available at launch.