TECH

Uber’s Bright Idea: Windshield LEDs So You Can Spot The Right Car

Have you ever hopped into the wrong car? Kick that awkward encounter to the curb.

We’ve all had uncomfortable Uber moments. For instance:

Unfortunately, these are some of the burdens that come along with the ability to take a mini computer out of your pocket and digitally ask another human to drive you wherever you want to go.

But there is one commonly experienced Uber moment of utter shame that the company is trying to eliminate for its customers:

The popular car service app just announced Uber SPOT, a feature that will allow customers to easily identify their rides using windshield LEDs on Uber cars.

But what if two people are waiting for two Ubers on the same street at the same exact time, you ask?

Simple. When a costumer orders an Uber car, he or she can choose from an array of colors -- yellow, orange, pink, purple, blue or green -- and the LED on the Uber that is meant to pick him or her up will flash whatever color the customer selected. Even cooler, the feature also allows riders to press and hold the color they chose on their phone, making the screen light up, so that drivers can verify they’re picking up the right person.

For now, a small group of drivers will be testing out Uber SPOT in Seattle. Uber spokeswoman Molly Spaeth told The Huffington Post that the company is experimenting with the project in the northwestern city to see how it works, and doesn't have plans yet to expand Uber SPOT to other markets.

One of Uber’s biggest problems is a lack of uniformity with its drivers. Uber, unlike taxis or other car services, doesn’t have a uniformed fleet of vehicles; rather, the company hires drivers who use their own cars to pick customers up. And although the service provides riders with drivers’ pictures, car models and license plate numbers -- and drivers are required to place an Uber placard on their windshield -- mix-ups still tend to happen.

“This is simply an attempt to make the experience more seamless and personalized,” Uber Seattle General Manager Brooke Steger told GeekWire.

Tech Crunch's Josh Constine noted that this is just another way Uber is going after what the company reportedly calls the "perfect ride," in which a rider pays the least possible while the driver and company make as much as they can, all through maximizing efficiency. In order for the perfect ride to happen, there has to be no gas wasted, routes have to be the most direct possible, and -- of course -- there should be minimum delay. That means a rider shouldn't be confused about which car is his or her Uber.

Hopefully up next on Uber's agenda is a feature that somehow eliminates the smothering silence a rider and driver often awkwardly share.