In order to prevent drowsy driving and improve safety, Uber is going to limit drivers in the US to a maximum of 12 hours a shift, after which itll block them from the service for six hours in the hopes that theyll take a break and recharge their batteries before getting back behind the wheel. Thats a commendable move from the ride-hailing company, and its good to see Uber taking the issue of driver fatigue seriously. However, its only rolling this out in the US for now – where nearly 60 percent of drivers use the service for under 10 hours a week. Ideally, Uber should turn on this feature for its drivers across the globe in order to prevent accidents and improve their well-being. But it may not be quite as simple as flipping a switch. Some Uber drivers Ive spoken to recently in major cities in India, including Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, and New Delhi, say that they routinely work long shifts because they have car loans to pay off – loans they didnt have to worry about until they signed up to drive for Uber. The promises about earnings that they heard before they joined or moved cities for havent been fulfilled. and the incentives that the company offers for completing a stipulated number of rides or serving a stipulated number of passengers keep changing – and they mostly become more difficult to achieve than before. While these drivers could certainly use a break – for their own safety, as well as for that of their passengers and others on the road – they also need a more stable source of income that doesnt cause as many sleepless nights as their long shifts. That may take a while, because cab companies are still battling each other by offering riders low fares and discounts. Heres hoping new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi can figure out a better way to do business around the world.
Uber has added a feature that will force a six-hour offline break whenever a driver on its platform reaches 12 hours of driving time. The feature is similar to one that Uber has in place in a few markets already around the U.S., which differs depending on local regulations, but this will apply across the U.S., and fully block use of the driver app for accepting trips during the six-hour period when it becomes active. Ubers decision to roll this out was made as a response to the problem of drowsy driving and driver fatigue, both of which are issues that continue to affect people on the road, even if driving while using mobile devices and intoxicated driving get more press and scrutiny. The Uber feature implementation will trigger when a driver has driven 12 hours without taking a continual, six-hour break at any point between. Drivers will have full visibility into how much driving theyve done according to Uber, which measures based on a number of factors, and will count things like when youre stopped at a stoplight (your brain is still engaged in the driving activity, even if youre temporarily stopped), but wont count time spent waiting in an airport parking lot to be called for a pickup, for instance, since many drivers use these as napping and rest opportunities. Ubers Head of Safety Product Sachin Kansal explained that the company relied on its ample experience with drivers and working with road safety organizations in determining what does and doesnt count towards a users total driving time. Theres definitely a lot of third-party expertise that has gone into our thinking, Kansal said in an interview. But its also that we know how our drivers drive, we know road conditions, so we have baked all that into it as well. This limit likely wont impact the majority of drivers on its platform, the company notes, because around 60 percent of its drivers dont even use Uber over 10 hours per week, but Kansal tells me that a relatively small number do tip the scales as heavy users. The company wants to do its part to address this safety issue, however, Kansal tells me, and to do so proactively, even where its not specifically required by local bylaws. Uber has studied the feature where implemented in other markets (including Australia, where it launched previously) and built this U.S.-facing version with a lot of feedback in mind. Thats why the app will provide notifications when youre nearing that 12 hour limit, effectively counting down so that its fully transparent and not surprising to a driver when they max out. When the six-hour break is over, the app will once again unlock itself for bookings. Also, where different rules are required by local law, those will apply instead of this new cross-U.S. limit. Rival Lyft has a driver limit in place, too, which mandates a six-hour break for every 14 hours spent in driver mode, but its not as granular as Ubers. Uber says it also plans to evaluate continued international rollout on an ongoing basis, and to expect this change to be introduced gradually across the driver app in the U.S. over the next few weeks.