Some New York City Ubers Will Soon Have Video Ads

Filed Under: Uber

Ubers will soon be like taxis in another way, at least in New York City. The New York Post reports that over the coming weeks, about 3,500 Uber and Lyft black cars in New York City will install video screens with ads on them. This is similar to what you’ll find in many New York City taxis, though unlike in taxis, you won’t be able to mute these. Instead the New York City video-ad screens can only be “near” muted and “near” dark. In the future they may add the option to turn off the screens, depending on how users respond.

This is being done by ad company Vugo. Contracts are already signed, and they’re looking for even more drivers. This is being done as Uber and Lyft drivers complain about making less money. Apparently these screens will allow them to earn an additional $100-200 per month, with the potential for that to go up in the future.

The Taxi & Limousine Commission blocked for-hire vehicles from installing these screens back in 2011 (presumably in hopes of not making it lucrative for people to drive for these companies), though Vugo sued, and a federal court judge finally ruled last month that they can’t prohibit this technology.

What I find interesting here is that these monitors will initially only be installed in the higher end black cars, and not basic Ubers and Lyfts. From the perspective of an advertiser I get that (they’re going after a higher end customer), but at the same time it’s a bit ironic that many UberBLACKS will feature a less soothing atmosphere than UberXs.

Some people have an unusual perspective on this, like this driver:

Driver Mike Alvela, who signed up to put one of the screens in his car, said he thinks it will class up his rides.

“It gives riders something to play with and it looks trendy,” he said. “I hope it will help me get more five-star ratings.”

You hope that playing ads will get you more five star scores because video ads are “trendy?” Really?

Meanwhile Vugo claims that the ads won’t be as annoying as what you find in yellow cabs:

Bellefeuille claims the Uber screens won’t be nearly as annoying as Taxi TV, a fixture in all yellow cabs, and the Vugo screens will allow passengers to curate content and choose from channels including music videos, stand-up comedy, and sports.

“It’s all going to be relevant to the passengers,” Bellefeuille promised. “It won’t be the same Jimmy Kimmel or Jimmy Fallon clip on repeat.”

I guess we’ll have to wait to see these firsthand before judging too harshly, though I’m skeptical.

As I said above, this is just Uber deviating further from what they initially promised. Uber’s tagline was “everyone’s private driver.” But over the years service has deteriorated, they’ve added tipping, and now some cars will have video ads. That doesn’t sound like what I’d expect from a “private driver.”

How bothered are you by video ads being installed in Ubers? Would it change your consumer behavior?

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

  1. I like the @onemileatatime Uber beat. Keep up the stuff. I probably spend more hours in an Uber per year than a plane.

  2. It really depends on how these are implemented. Is it like a Cathay Pacific IFE system that plays a short ad before interesting content that I have chosen? Or is it just lipstick on the taxi video ad pig? I hate that I can’t even stand at a gas station anymore without some inane video assaulting my ears.

    An unmuteable ad in a Uber Black seems like a pretty good way to push premium passengers back to traditional car services.

  3. I never tip my ubereats drivers. I can’t bloody imagine they don’t lose money. They pick up from 5 miles away to deliver.

    I feel bad for them. But eff America. Until rich scumbags pay their fair share in taxes why should I feel guilty about anyone.

  4. I’ll probably start taking taxis or other car services. Uber is convenient and you don’t have to beg for air conditioning in the summer (the last time I asked a taxi driver for air conditioning he opened all the windows) plus, the cars are mostly clean and the drivers are not on the phone but they are playing their favorite music which is usually not mine so it’s probably a toss-up except that I can mute the advertisements in a taxi. I think I would need to be able to reject Ubers that had advertising because I don’t want to be subjected to that and if I couldn’t do that I probably wouldn’t call Uber – despite the Platinum Amex card discount.

  5. Not being able to shut the sound is problematic for people with hearing loss who cannot hear over the noise. Uber will now need to add induction loops since the videos need to be hearing aid compatible like the taxis. The videos Also, need captions.sDid Uber even consider people with hearing loss?

  6. What is this Uber thing anyway? I really dont get how people, esp in the U.S. want to be driven by some otherwise unemployed low IQ possibly very high risk people they do not know? I keep employing my own drivers thank you. Plus no ads.

  7. I refuse to take a taxi with this ad nonsense. I don’t stop at gas stations with these ad TVs. I certainly won’t ride in an Uber with this. I’ll take my money elsewhere and advocate for everyone else to do the same.

  8. Add me to the list of people who will go out of their way to avoid using Uber cars equipped with this. ESPECIALLY with Uber Black. I’m paying a premium, for a premium experience. To me, that includes paying to avoid advertising everywhere.

  9. I use Uber blacks pretty much everywhere when I don’t need to pre-book a car.

    This will absolutely make me go back to proper car services. Stupid, stupid idea.

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