Uber Wants To Leave Left Turns To NASCAR Drivers So Your Next Ride Will Be Mostly Right

hero uber reducing left turns news
If you are a regular Uber rider, your next trip may feel just a little bit different. Uber has announced several changes to its platform which include the in-app navigation’s newfound aversion to left turns as well as several other safety-focused enhancements.

This announcement may seem like a coy way to subtly increase ride fares by forcing longer routes, but Uber says that is not its intention. The changes are implemented as “just a few minor adjustments to GPS routing that have little to no impact on trip time.” Instead, the goal is to create a safer and “less stressful driving experience.” The company cites National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics which indicate that 22% of crashes involve a vehicle making a left turn. Left turns at intersections are easily among the most dangerous parts of a commute as many are not fully protected and they involve crossing in front of oncoming traffic.

As such, Uber’s in-app routing will not avoid left turns altogether. Rather, whenever there is an opportunity to choose between two or more relatively equal routes, it will prioritize the path that keeps left turns to a minimum. The in-app navigation will now bring greater attention to partially controlled intersections in general as well. These are intersections where traffic is allowed to flow freely in at least one direction without a stop sign or light. As the driver approaches one of these intersections, the app will pop up a visible warning to watch for cross traffic and indicate the direction(s) of free-flowing traffic with arrows.

Of course, not all safety concerns stem from outside the vehicle. Uber started a roll out of an audio recording feature for drivers and passengers alike in a few countries and US cities. The recordings are not freely accessible, though. To ensure the privacy of all participants, the recordings are encrypted when stored on the device. If a safety-related incident is reported to Uber, either the driver or passenger can choose to attach the audio file and other relevant information which can only be decrypted by a trained safety agent to resolve the dispute. This feature is rolling out to an additional 6 U.S. cities next month.

Drivers may soon get access to another recording feature. Using a mount, drivers will be able to leverage their phone’s front-facing camera to record the interior of the cabin. While this is currently possible with a standalone dashcam system, this feature would allow drivers to skip the expense and setup complexity. Furthermore, it is built on the privacy framework of the audio recording feature so it would better protect rider privacy as well. This test feature will first roll out to select drivers in Cincinnati, Louisville, and New York City in the U.S., as well as Santos and João Pessoa, Brazil.

Finally, Uber says it is undertaking a massive audit of rider profiles to remove fake accounts. It indicates that many of these accounts use fake names which can sometimes include offensive language, which may put drivers in challenging situations. To help Uber weed out these accounts, drivers can select My rider had an inappropriate name as a reporting option. Flagged accounts will be required to update the name or otherwise verify authenticity with a support agent before access can be restored.

In all, these seem like reasonable measures to improve safety across the rideshare app. While some measure of privacy is necessarily sacrificed by using a transportation service, we are at least glad to see measures in place to protect the audio and video recordings. This won’t stop drivers and riders alike from using other means to record and publicly shame people, but hopefully will act as a deterrent to these situations arising in the first place.