In an effort to combat drowsy driving, Uber announced today that it would require its most frequent drivers to take six-hour breaks after driving for 12 hours straight. Uber is updating the driver version of the app so that it logs off after counting 12 hours of driving, and drivers will not be able to log on until after the app registers six hours offline. The update is expected to roll out nationally over a two-week period. Drivers will also receive a warning after 10 hours of driving to let them know they are approaching the 12-hour limit. A second warning will come after the 11th hour, and a third notification will serve as a 30-minute warning. Uber is framing its new policy as an effort to combat drowsy driving. The companys announcement includes statistics from the National Sleep Foundation and quotes from representatives of the Governors Highway Safety Association. Drowsy driving is the cause of up to 6,000 fatal crashes annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We want to keep our riders and drivers safe, said Sachin Kansal, Ubers Director of Product Management, told The Washington Post. The approach we have taken is irrespective of whos responsible for managing this. We want to help the drivers manage that in the app so they have all the visibility, so they know how much they can drive and when they need to go offline. Kansal said the app will measure driving time using GPS and telematics to detect whether the vehicle is moving. Short waits, such as those at stoplights, will count against workers driving time. But longer waits such as those in airport cues, and other idling exceeding five minutes, will not count. Because the clock is cumulative, a driver can be prompted to take a break even if they havent driven driven for 12 hours consecutively. For example, someone who has picked up fares in two, six-hour spurts — without taking six hours of rest in between — would have their app disabled after the second leg. Uber rolled out a similar policy in New York City in 2016, in which drivers who are on the road longer than 12 hours risked temporary deactivation. The policy followed a New York Post article that tracked a handful of Uber drivers who reported driving 16–19 hours a day. Meanwhile, Uber drivers in the UK are required to take six-hour breaks after 10-hour shifts in a new policy enacted earlier this year.
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.