Uber made an announcement last Wednesday stating it has been recently testing new software that tracks and analyzes data from individual drivers in an attempt to increase safety for Massachusetts Uber users. The technology tracks things like sudden acceleration, braking and whether drivers are holding their phones when they drive. This is similar to data that is collected by trucking companies and fleet operators. Some auto insurers also offer discounts to their customers who voluntarily install a data-collection device in their vehicle. Uber announced that they will be requiring drivers in several cities to install this software. The announcement comes amidst many conversations about if there should be stricter regulations on ride-hailing businesses, such as Uber. Simultaneously, the San Francisco-based company is trying to manage its strained relationship with its drivers. Uber drivers are independent contractors, not employees, and have often sued Uber over pay and working conditions. Most recently, Uber adjusted the app to allow drivers more discretion to reject rides and to charge passengers who make them wait.
Uber says the new software is not specifically being used to penalize or reward drivers, though it does track behaviors that are often the reason drivers receive low ratings. The information will be useful to drivers who do receive low ratings so that they may alter their driving to prevent additional complaints. Repeated low ratings can result in drivers being suspended from the transportation company. Because Uber already operates using an app, adding the new software is as simple as providing an update to users and drivers. The new program implements the same gyroscope and motion sensors that allow smartphone users to play games on their devices.
This software will allow Uber to measure the car’s movement and also assess how quickly the driver accelerates or brakes. A daily summary is then sent to drivers, noting how often they accelerated or decelerated too quickly. Uber emphasizes that this is simply an automated process, meaning there is no human intervention if a driver is dangerously unpredictable on the road. Instead, Uber tells users to access the “help” feature on the app. In addition to this feature, there will be a sensor used to sense “phone movement.” This program will be installed to detect if drivers are holding their phones while transporting passengers. Uber plans to remind drivers that this behavior can be a distraction. In the beginning stages of implementation, the company may also ask passengers if they saw their drivers holding a phone during the trip. A third feature will immediately notify drivers if they are traveling excessively fast, specifically 15 mph above the speed limit. Lastly, periodic reminders will be given to drivers about the importance of taking semi-frequent breaks.
Uber plans on testing these new programs in several large cities, giving half of the drivers in each city the software. The company will compare the behavior of the drivers who have the new safety software to those in the same cities who do not after two months and then reevaluate at that time.
Bailey, Brandon. “Uber Sensor Designed to Track Driver Behavior.” Claims Journal News. N.p., 30 June 2016. Web. 08 July 2016.