Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Frustration of Uber in-app navigation feature

An UberX driver shared that Uber's in-app navigation caused them several navigation issues on Saturday. This in-app navigation is becoming a nuisance while driving in-route to retrieve clients.

First and foremost, the navigation has no sense of direction. The navigation directed the UberX driver to drive up Paramount Road, and then connect with an intersecting street. However, this road has a partition where a fence and cement block motorists from passing thru this street. It is not a thru street. Why would this in-app navigation send this driver up a large steep hill that is not a thru street?

This UberX driver took 4 minutes to turn around on the steep hill. They had to be very careful not to hit another parked car. Needless to say, Uber's in-app navigation lengthened the pickup time. Google Maps gave this driver the proper directions, instructing them to take the adjacent street to connect with the main street.

The same event occurred again near Jack London Square. When the in-app picks up on an address, the navigation will keep re-routing until the driver makes a U-turn. A driver must make a U-turn or turn down another street to receive the directions in real-time. A in-app navigation directed the driver to a road that obviously doesn't connect to the Embarcadero street near Jack London Square. Why?

The road and Jack London Square are divided by railroad tracks and a fence. Therefore, the UberX driver re-routed back to another connecting street and reach this pickup location. Uber's in-app navigation is experiencing intersection problems where it senses a road is open rather than avoid these closed streets. In the Jack London issue, this one road has never connected to Embarcadero.

Lastly, the in-app navigation detected a much longer route for a MacArthur BART station drop-off. Instead of directing the driver to just drive down the street and make a U-turn, the In-app navigation instructed them to make a right turn, drive several blocks down the street, make a left turn, and then another right turn to drop this client off. The client noticed route after inputting the destination into the Uber app.

The UberX driver asked the client whether is he wanted to follow the recommended route or just drive ahead and make a U-turn and get dropped off a block down the street. Both the driver and client realized the Uber in-app navigation detected an inefficient route, one that Google would never provide. These navigation problems don't happen that often with Google Maps.

A third client shared that Uber' navigation took the driver on an unorthodox route. Usually, the client takes 580 and exits Harrison Street to reach a restaurant. However, the Uber navigation instructed the driver to take I-980 and exit 12th street. Both routes reach this destination, but the client prefered her usual route. Nonetheless, the client never shared this route when the driver requested whether she another way. The Uber app chooses one route and that's it.

With all these recurring setbacks, the UberX driver still appreciates the In-app navigation. This navigation feature, unveiled in May 2014, improved pickup times and increased safety. Usually, before the May 2014 update, clients would ask drivers why they stopped after accepting a trip. The driver would explain their reasoning, sharing that Uber's driver app doesn't have any navigation features and that their Uber I-Phone restricted app downloads. Before May 2014, drivers couldn't download any navigation apps and wouldn't be able to use Google Maps.

Fortunately, Uber updated the app an In-app navigation feature. Whereas there are navigation challenges choosing longer routes to reach a simple location, directing drivers to take closed roads and re-routing issues, UberX drivers would rather use this In-app navigation feature than to see client addresses flashing on the screen. The old app required drivers to pull to the side of the road, and input this pickup location into their secondary phone. For the most part, UberX drivers must continue using their personal phones to accept calls and text messages from clients. Oftenly, drivers use their personal phones as a GPS device to activate multiple routes. Uber's In-app navigation doesn't have a blocking option to avoid highways and tolls.

Happy Ubering!