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.
To curb drowsy driving, the app goes offline after 12 hours on the road. With its latest app update, Uber is forcing US drivers to take a six hour break after working 12 straight hours. The company implemented a similar feature in the UK earlier this year, but lets American drivers work two hours longer. The app will issue three warnings, starting after 10 hours of straight driving, before going offline and forcing drivers to stop. The aim is to put a halt to drowsy driving that causes 4,000 accidents a year, the company said in a statement. The feature will count most driving time, including being stopped at a light, with the exception of a few things like when you're waiting in an airport parking lot. Uber said it drew on driver experience and road safety groups to calculate the totals. "There's definitely a lot of third-party expertise that has gone into our thinking," Uber safety head Sachin Kansal told TechCrunch. " But it's also that we know how our drivers drive, we know road conditions, so we have baked all that into it as well." The change won't affect most drivers, as over 60 percent don't use Uber more than 10 hours a day. It's quite likely that the app won't even stop those who work more than 12 hours. Sherpashare, a driver assistant app, estimated that nearly three-quarters of drivers use more than one service. That would enable them to, say, use Uber for the first part of a day, then flip to another and keep working as long as they want. Nevertheless, Uber put a lot of thought into the feature before implementing it in the US. Based on data it gathered in the UK, Australia and elsewhere, it introduced the extra notifications so that the limit doesn't surprise drivers when they hit it. Rival Lyft offers a similar feature, but lets drivers operate 14 hours before shutting them off and doesn't offer as many notifications.