Uber updates its app to help you find your driver more easily

The ride-hailing company adds new features, like "request for a guest," live location sharing, and a glowing windshield "beacon" light.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
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Uber's new live location feature aims for more efficient pickups by letting passengers show their drivers exactly where they're located. 


Uber acknowledges it can be stressful for passengers to find their drivers. So it's trying to make it easier.

The ride-hailing company rolled out several new features on Monday, all aimed at making the process of hailing a ride and connecting with drivers less hectic. The updates include a way for people to call an Uber for a friend and a feature that lets passengers share their exact location with a driver.

"One of the challenging and exciting things we have working at Uber is the intersection of the digital and real world," said Nundu Janakiram, product manager for rider experience at Uber. "Trying to find real riders in the real world -- that can be challenging and stressful. We want to make the pickup experience more stress free."

Since its founding in 2009, Uber has gone from a small startup to one of the largest ride-hailing services on the planet, operating in more than 70 countries. With a valuation of $68 billion, Uber is also the world's highest-valued venture-backed company. But, to keep ahead of its rivals -- like US-based Lyft and China-based Didi Chuxing -- Uber has to continue improving on what it provides riders and drivers.

One of the new features Uber is adding is "live location sharing." This lets passengers share their actual location with drivers in relation to the pickup spot. It's helpful in places like malls and airports, when passengers may need to walk to find less busy areas. When passengers tap "live location" on their app, the driver can see exactly where they are and navigate closer to that zone.

"It makes it significantly easier for the driver to find this particular rider," Janakiram said. "So they can more easily rendezvous."

Another feature, the "beacon," is similar to Lyft's "Amp." Riffing on a taxi light, the beacon is a lit-up device that Uber drivers can display in their windows. The idea is to help passengers better identify drivers, especially at night. Beacon is already in Miami, Denver and Nashville, but now it's coming to New York City, San Francisco and Chicago. Eventually, it'll roll out to more cities.

"The rider can choose the color," Janakiram said. "That's the color that the beacon will light up as."

Finally, Uber is now letting people hail a ride for someone else. It's calling this feature "request for a guest." Right now it can be a headache to order a car for another person, because the app recognizes only one passenger.

"This was all stuff that was kind of happening in a ping-pong fashion," Janakiram said. "We wanted to make it really simple to order an Uber on behalf of someone else."

With request for a guest, people can choose someone from their contact list to designate as the rider. The app will then send that guest passenger a text with trip details, such as driver name, car type and estimated time of arrival.

Uber will bring these features to riders across the US in the next few weeks and then roll them out internationally.

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