New Uber Black Features, Including “Quiet Mode”

Filed Under: Uber

Uber has just announced some improvements to their Uber Black experience, which I guess is their push to encourage more people to use Uber’s premium ride sharing option. Most people use UberX, though aside from the cars there’s not much differentiation in terms of the service otherwise. It looks like that will be changing.

These adjustments are based on feedback from Uber Black riders, who said they wanted high-quality service and premium comfort.

Here are some of the new features that Uber is rolling out, and how they describe them:

  • Quiet Mode: if you need to respond to emails or are in the mood for a nap, make your trip a quieter one with just one tap. If you’re in the mood to chat, that’s an option too.
  • Help with Luggage: let your driver know an extra pair of hands is needed for your luggage.
  • Temperature Control: communicate your optimal temperature before entering a vehicle.
  • Extended Pickup Period: riders will have a little extra time to get to the car when unexpected delays pop up.
  • Premium Support: access premium phone support with live agents if you need something to be made right.

These new features have been available on 100% of US Uber Black rides since yesterday, and I’d say these are great developments.

Most concretely, the waiting period being increased from two minutes to five minutes is great, in my opinion.

While the other additions sound great, do keep in mind that they’re just given as “preferences,” and I wouldn’t expect they’ll be honored 100% of the time.

For example, when you order your ride you’ll be given the option to select some preferences, including “quiet preferred” or “happy to chat.”

As someone who is an introvert and who works almost 100% of the time I’m in Ubers, I love when a driver is quiet. However, I’d still feel rude basically selecting that as a “preference.” Maybe that’s wrong, but that just seems… awkward.

Even as someone who doesn’t like to talk, I also think it’s very much an “it depends” situation. In other words, there are some drivers I have great conversations with. Then there are other drivers who talk the entire time but don’t get the hint. So it seems difficult to balance that fully.

Still, in general I’m a fan of this as long as it doesn’t annoy the driver. It nicely counteracts the fact that Uber loves tagging certain drivers as being “known for great conversation.” That’s not a selling point, in my opinion!

I’m curious, what do you guys make of Uber’s new “quiet mode” option, whether you’re a rider and/or driver?

Comments

  1. You can’t do this on an UberX? Like, asking the driver to turn the music down isn’t allowed unless you’re in an Uber Black?

  2. How do you figure most people use UberX, no one I know does, and I only use Black since at least they are typically professional drivers vs someone who happens to own a Prius and wants a few extra bucks.

  3. Now, if only there was a button to tell Uber drivers not to stop in the middle of the road, blocking traffic for those of us who actually know how to drive.

  4. @Daniel:

    I think the difference is that a lot of folks feel rude, as Ben mentions, if they don’t make some modicum of effort to engage the driver/passenger during the ride. I know I suspect drivers feel it’s somehow demeaning if passengers don’t engage them. I don’t drive for Uber so I don’t know if that’s truly the case, but I definitely have a bit of guilt if I just hop into the car and stay quiet. It’s as if I’m silently referring to them as “the help” and that I can’t be bothered to ask them about their day or how they’re doing. But sometimes after a long flight the only thing I want is to get home and see my dog and go to bed; I don’t want to (be forced to) engage in idle chitchat about the weather or current events. But often I will do just that because I fear my rating will go down if I’m perceived as rude. Having an option for “quiet time” is something I’d love and would likely use frequently.

  5. Uber features are always with a grain of salt because the more annoying you are to a driver, the more likely you are to need a good cash tip to get a 5-Star rating. They’re just going to expect tips for setting your temperature and keeping quiet. Need a service with higher wages and no passenger ratings so the amount you pay for straightforward service is just the amount you pay.

  6. This “quiet mode” thing seems like it’s designed for people who are utterly lacking in basic social skills. It’s not hard to use your words to politely ask the driver to turn down the music. (I admit this may make some sense in situations with a language barrier.) Also, it’s a bit dehumanizing to the drivers (which is in fact Uber’s long term goal and only hope to be profitable), treating them like a digital device that can be muted at the press of a button. It’s so very Silicon Valley, trying to mitigate any human interaction through engineering solutions!

  7. @Ryan

    Isn’t Uber Black unavailable in many markets and X available in all? That would limit the number of Black users.

  8. Can’t see any reason to pay for a UberBlack over an UberX.

    Can’t see any reason to care about or view these ‘features’ as anything special or worth selecting an UberBlack for. Most of them you can get in an UberX already by simply asking.

    Too hot: Sir/Ma’am can you turn the A/C up?
    Quiet mode: “Excuse, me. I have some work I need to do on my phone.”
    etc…

    Just be polite and there’s no problem.

  9. @Bob: maybe you never used Uber Black. The main difference is that with Uber Black you know what you are getting. Professional drivers with a professional driver’s license, real insurance, clean and odorless car, etc… Uber X is a huge gamble. I got from a pretty cute young lady on a brand new Mercedes to a stinky and dirty Prius with a rude driver on a speakerphone call arguing with his wife in their native language for 30 minutes. It is the perfect case of “you get what you pay for”.

  10. I’m currently sitting in a lyft outside Baton Rouge on my way to Lafayette that is at least 80 degrees and no amount of finagling with the thermostat is cooling it off. A bit disappointed but at the end of the day I’ll deal. With all the stacks going on with Lyft not sure why I will ever use an Uber except for the Amex credit. Have no problem letting driver know to lower volume or not talk if I have a call. I do like chatting with folks for the initial few minutes of a trip but if I need to get something done.

    All Uber is trying to do is accommodate folks who don’t like to deal with potential perceived conflict by asking for what they want.

  11. My experiences with Uber X have shown that the drivers are more professional. Since its a larger vehicle, I usually am comfortable sitting in the back seat and I am usually with a date or going to the airport.

    I have never had an issue with making sure the driver knows that I am busy and trying to get something done. They are professionals. I don’t need to press a button on my phone to tell the driver that I don’t want to chit chat. I use social cues. Like we did before smart phones. When we knew how to interact without fear of being awkward.

    The reason I sometimes use Uber Black over Uber X is usually when I am going to the airport or with a date going downtown. I don’t want to sit in the back of some hamster car driving down the freeway. If I am springing for flying Business or First class to go on some fabulous trip, I am not going to start it out riding in some wanna be musician’s Kia Rio listening to their mix tape of them butchering country classics (typical UberX experience in Nashville).

  12. I use uber a lot as a rider and I also drive for uber on the occasional weekend.

    I feel like the ‘quiet mode’ option is a slap in the face to our social construct. Since when did it become so difficult to open your mouth and communicate?

    From a driver perspective, I couldn’t care less if you don’t say a word. I’ll still rate you 5 stars as long as you don’t do anything stupid or rude (beyond not speaking).

    Optimally, you would be a perfectly capable human being and get in the car, ask how someone is doing, then in that exchange of pleasantries state that you’re tired or busy and would prefer a quiet ride.

    I personally do not like to talk to drivers when I use the service but that’s literally all I do and have not gotten an ill review.

    The way that less and less interaction is being required and less and less possible conflict is being faced really is weakening us from the core. Stop being such wimps.

  13. You could do like me, hire LYFT. 99% of drivers in Miami only speak Spanish. ……. ah, quiet!

  14. Its not my job to entertain drivers by engaging them in conversation. We shouldn’t have to press a button. If a customer is not interested in conversation the driver should be able to pick up on the cue and not keep pushing a conversation.

  15. I might make a few phone calls in an average Uber trip but I rarely pull the laptop and start working. I actually enjoy talking with drivers so I guess I’m the exception.

  16. In Dubai where I live, Uber X was only introduced recently. Over here to be licensed to operate a limo with driver, the same must be owned by a licensed private limo company. Private citizens aren’t allowed to drive Uber cars and this applies in all the Gulf except in Saudi where my Uber experience was awesome, great, unexpectedly way better than taxis. However except when I fly to Italy (my country) where Uber is a hoax (probably more expensive than a Taxi), everywhere else I only use Uber and I really don’t care if it’s X or Black. Whatever is timely available I use it.

  17. @Santastico: there’s no difference in driver requirements for Black or UberX, nor in the limits of insurance provided by Uber. Black is simply a nicer car, with drivers that Uber itself calls “professional” but that is not backed by anything. Some Black cars may be from commercial partners of Uber and therefore have higher drivers licenses and different insurance, but this is not an Uber requirement. The only requirement is a better car.

    UberX is VASTLY bigger than Black: of all the active Uber drivers, 74% work for UberX while only 0.8% work for Black.

    Sources: https://www.uber.com/drive/requirements/, https://www.uber.com/drive/insurance/, https://www.uber.com/ride/uberblack/, https://www.ridester.com/2018-survey/

  18. I just have to laugh, such a millennial thing.

    Back in the day when you had a black car, the driver could sense whether you wanted to chat or not. And if you really didn’t want to talk, you made that clear.

    No worries about the tyranny of getting a lower rating because you didn’t want to talk.

    “Oh I’ll just press this button I DON’T WANT TO TALK” instead of just saying “Hey I’m not in the mood to chat.”

    Sigh.

  19. Would love to see this on regular Uber’s as well. With a lot of drivers I feel they also don’t want to talk but do it to get their 5 star rating. I actually started to take Taxis again (e.g. recently in Poland) so I did not need to talk and can sit in the backseat.

  20. what a wonderful world! Using an app to ask a human to shut up… I really dont want to think how this company sees the world.
    Why cant you just open your mouth to politely say you have some work to do and that will be fine..

  21. Just for the record – Uber doesn’t ‘tag’ drivers as being ‘known for great conversation’, that ‘tag’ is one of nine preselected standard compliments that RIDERS can give a driver.

  22. The first thing I do when I get in any taxi is tell the to turn off the radio. It’s my ride.

  23. I’m intrigued by the Black benefit of “help with luggage”.
    Excuse me but when I have luggage, I expect that of UberX drivers without having to make a special request. Seems to me that is just part of the transportation service to be provided.

  24. UberX and Uber Black are two different services. UberX is someone’s private car being destroyed for pennies, or a car rented from a predatory fleet company. The fares are sometimes 75% to 80% less than Uber Black. (Nicola, no X in Italy, only Black.) People take UberX for the price. Lyft is just another UberX. Most, yes most drivers drive for Uber and Lyft. They just take the first request that comes in.
    Uber Black is larger late model cars, all black with black leather. They aren’t private cars, they are rented by the drivers at SUPER predatory pricing. “Professional drivers” just means the driver waited on an extra line at the DMV and paid an extra fee for a limo/chauffeur endorsement. Uber Black is way more expensive, yet most drivers also pick up UberX fares as well since Uber Black is so slow. (Uber’s own admission has Uber Black accounting for less than 10% of all Uber rides.
    Uber drivers are paid pittance, but most drivers are new immigrants who have few options for work. Hopefully they find their way to better jobs the longer they stay in the country. Any driver that says they are paid good are generally new and still believe the lie that driver ratings matter.
    Just an aside, I hope everyone by now is tipping their Uber drivers. I love how the same “woke” people tweeting about how sad they are about families at the border tend to be the same people who slam immigrant Uber drivers’ doors, spill coffee on the seats, never tip and give 1 star ratings for unavoidable traffic. (I work in immigration law and hear the same stories from many of our clients.) So, please tip them…

  25. My best Uber ride ever: booked by receptionist from Hyatt house in Anchorage to the airport. We overslept. Thirty minutes before takeoff, thought we’d never make it. My wife crying in the car, convinced we’d miss the flight.
    The driver turned up in a bmw, raced us there in 10, we ran barefoot to the closed gate, where a gate agent managed to let us on the flight.

    Never got a chance to really thank that amazing driver. Because the ride was booked by the hotel, never found out who he was, nor could I tip him. There’s some really great Uber drivers out there.

  26. I drive for Uber and also ride it. I take exception to the comment that uberx cars are dirty and driven by less than “professional” drivers. My car is thoroughly cleaned each morning before starting my trips. I leave the music on an easy-listening station on low. I am an introvert who prefers not to talk, but a good portion of my riders want to converse so I happily oblige them. I help people with their luggage without being asked. That benefits the rider, but also myself as I can get on the road quicker and pick up more fares. In keeping with the professional attitude that I try to convey, I dress nice. No blue jeans or T shirts. I consider that tacky when dealing with the public.

  27. One out of touch boy said something like “ Who uses X, I don’t know anyone. I always use Black.”

    Service is actually almost always worse with Black, in regard to wait times. And, to repeat the facts that others have posted about Black, the advantages, other than a luxury car, are none.

    I have never had a bad vehicle with X.

  28. I think these improvements are fantastic. I always feel awkward telling the driver I dont want to chat, or to please turn the a/c on as im always hot, i’d rather pre select on the app and boom we’re good to go . Love it, good job Uber and hopefully theyll expand this to all categories & other apps like Lyft & 99 Taxi.

  29. I don’t think many people choose to be uber drivers perhaps they are less fortunate. Many immigrants are drivers. 3 of us got off a flight at 5:30 at EWR to go to long island. The driver was Albanian. We asked if likes the chit chat and he said he wished more ppl would talk and that he’s not some bozo just driving. Some can have nothing to smart to say. I had a Cambodian driver in California. I had some of the most eye opening conversation with him. A refugee from the Khmer Rouge. I didn’t even know of such history. Most of my friends wouldn’t chat. But some of these drivers can have very interesting information to share

  30. Can’t wait for self-driving Uber’s so I don’t have to worry about their feeling, driving skills, my rating, or whether they are sober. I can set my temp, listen to my music/audio book, or make calls without a thought…

  31. This is my take.
    Depends on how you define Uber.

    As a ride share: You should talk, it’s like someone giving you a ride, don’t be rude and show some courtesy.

    As a cab: STFU. I’m paying. And don’t BS about a/c not working. Leave me alone and do your job.

    5 years ago, I think the former. Nowadays, definitely the latter.

  32. I think using uberblack is what people use when they live in cities that don’t have professional drivers. In NYC, all have to be insured, TLC licensed, most drive new black cars, and often you’re in a premium car for the price of an UBER X. Why would I double my cost for an upmarket car for just 10-15 mins?
    I try to avoid UBER these days because of the cost. Too expensive so often in NYC. I’d prefer to just walk or take the train if I’m in casual dress (as in a suit vs. semi-formal of a tux or formal of white tie).

  33. I remember the good old days in The Netherlands where there was Uber Lux. This was definitely the best way to travel in Amsterdam. Mercedes S class, Jaguar XJ or BMW 7 series guaranteed. Drivers in professional clothing holding the door open on both arrival and departure, drinks (such as Red bull, water and cola) and candy. And the price was unbeatable, around the same price as regular ugly taxi’s.

    No individual people with their own cars, but good professional drivers with the necessary taxi licences.

  34. @Ben here’s a suggestion: Select Quiet Ride and briefly, at the beginning of the ride, make a mildly self-deprecating remark thanking the driver for indulging the silence. “Hi, Sorry I chose Silent Ride, I’m not a Prince, I’m just in big trouble if I don’t get this work done! We’ve all got a boss, right?” Then out with the work props. You’re not “that guy” and you’ve established your All-American egalitarian creds with your driver. One moment of extroverted engagement is a small price to pay, non?

    @Daniel my $0.02: in an uber, if you’re the driver, you *are* “the help” and there’s no shame in that. A Pro uberBlack driver takes proper, respectable pride in doing his job well, as anyone does in their work. A good limo ride is part Theatre, as much art as tech. Treating people who serve as if they’re not servants ties people in knots. If you’re serving, you’re a servant. And that’s okay. It’s respectable work. It’s not slavery, we needn’t be ashamed of it. Your driver isn’t, or shouldn’t be.

  35. I hope they bring it to UberX but understand if they don’t ….. or even the ‘Comfort’ class.
    I might use UberBlack or UberSUV once a month honestly.

  36. Several years ago Uber X offered quiet driver option. Ironically, that feature quietly went away. I used it several times and it worked.

  37. I’m a little confused. Whenever I get Uber X (99% of the times when available) if I am concentrated on my phone or closing my eyes, drivers keep quiet and if I ask to turn off the music that is taken care immediately. I’m not sure that the QUIET MODE is really required to be honest. Overall to me it looks just a marketing stunt. Even help for the luggage. If I have luggage even with Uber X the driver has always stepped out of the car to help and got some voluntary tip and also a thank you. Was I always lucky or maybe really this is not that big innovation as it looks?

  38. @neil
    I wouldn’t expect that of an UberX driver. Especially at the low prices they charge in many markets.

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