A lot of people love Uber, the San Francisco-based vehicles-for-hire company. What they don’t love is being uncertain about how much they will have to pay to hire those vehicles.
Uber has come under fire for its so-called surge pricing, which jacks up the amount of users’ fares when demand for rides exceeds the number of drivers available. Now, the company is modifying its app to make it easier for users to see upfront how much their rides will cost. On the downside though, the new version of the app will make it more difficult to tell how much surge pricing is being applied to users’ fares.
Yesterday, Uber said that its app will now require customers to enter their destinations when they request rides. The app will calculate rates based on distance, time, traffic and surge pricing, and then display how much their fares will likely cost, which users can accept or reject.
What will be missing is the lightning bolt icon, indicating surge pricing, that once struck fear in the hearts of riders.
How Much More?
Uber will tell users that their fares have been increased, but not by how much. Rather than showing how much more rides will cost and then asking riders if they’re willing to pay those amounts, estimated fares will appear with the following message, “fares are higher due to increased demand.”
Drivers can still view heat maps that depict the areas that have higher and lower surge pricing, according to Uber. While the change to the app doesn’t make it easier to know when fares will be higher than normal, the change will make its rates easier to understand, Uber said.
“We moved to upfront, per-trip fares… two years ago when we launched uberPOOL,” wrote Arundhati Singh and Dennis Zhao, Uber product managers, on the company’s blog. “Riders needed to enter their destinations so we could match them with other people headed the same way. This allowed us to calculate the actual fare in advance and show it to riders before they booked their ride.”
Effort at Clarity
Independent technology analyst Jeff Kagan told us that Uber seems to be making at least some effort to make its fares more transparent so customers don’t think they’re getting gouged on rides.
“People love the idea of Uber, but hate not knowing what they’re going to pay — especially during surge pricing,” said Kagan. “I think this is an effort on Uber’s part to smooth over that rough area. It’s good to see Uber making an effort to keep customers satisfied.”
Uber said the changeover to upfront fares started in April for regular trips in some cities in the U.S. and India. More cities will have the option as the updated app rolls out.