Uber is using sensors in drivers’ own smartphones to see if they’re speeding

Patrick O'Rourke

January 26, 2016 10:23am

Anyone who has used Uber before has likely encountered a driver who was a little too hard on the gas pedal, or overly tenacious with the brakes.

According to a recent press release from the often controversial ride-sharing platform, Uber plans to track driver activity in order to “improve safety proactively.”

The company says it started tracking drivers in China via GPS coordinates approximately six months ago in order to detect whether drivers were attending protests in the city of Hangzhou. While this was an isolated incident, the company has continued testing the technology over the last few months.

Uber says it’s now able to tell exactly when a driver is speeding or braking too hard thanks to GPS and accelerometers built directly into nearly every smartphone.

“Gyrometers in phones can measure small movements, while GPS and accelerometers show how often a vehicle starts and stops, as well as its overall speed,” said Joe Sullivan, Uber’s chief security officer. “If a rider complains that a driver accelerated too fast and broke too hard, we can review that trip using data. If the feedback is accurate, then we can get in touch with the driver. And if it’s not, we could use the information to make sure a driver’s rating isn’t affected.”

Uber says it also has the ability to detect when drivers are moving their phone around too much, and mentions that the company can provide mounts to fix this problem. Sullivan says that if Uber detects drivers are speeding frequently the company will “ask them to curb their enthusiasm.”

While this technology brings few downsides to passengers, it’s likely drivers will take issue with Uber further monitoring their activities, especially given the recent class action lawsuit that challenges the fact Uber classifies its drivers as independent contractors.

Recently, Uber announced it is giving drivers in Seattle colour-coded lights to place on their vehicles, allowing riders to more easily identify their vehicle in the evening.

  • Mo Dabbas

    Wow. So not only they give the drivers a tiny fraction of the payments, they want now to record their driving habits. I bet insurance companies already wrote the check for such information. What a way for to get out of the red (reports suggest uber so far is recording losses).

  • Mo Dabbas

    “Recently, Uber announced it is giving drivers in Seattle colour-coded lights to place on their vehicles, allowing” cab drivers to find them easily before starting to egg their car

  • Elton Bello

    Did they steal their porn pics too? How about their sexting habits uber?

  • FlamesFan89

    Anyone who has been the passenger in a car before has likely encountered a driver who was a little too hard on the gas pedal, or overly tenacious with the brakes.

    Fixed that for you

    I’m not sure why that is limited to Uber. There are likely more bad drivers on the road than good ones. That includes taxi drivers, bus drivers, commercial drivers, and your every day commuter.

    • Mo Dabbas

      I was about to say that (but I already commented too many times before anyone).
      Uber probably wants to collect data to sell it to insurance companies. They’d love that kind of information.

  • SV650

    “If a rider complains that a driver accelerated too fast and broke too hard, we can review that trip using data.” – Joe Sullivan, Uber Chief Security Officer

    New ways to use the English language. Really Uber?

  • h2oflyer

    It’s all about covering their a*s against injured passenger lawsuits. They know a lot of Uber drivers don’t have proper commercial insurance.

    They will be able to show the drivers record and if he has been warned. A great way to deflect the lawsuits.

  • disqusmy

    Uber can use it to track where passenger are going also. And sell it to third party. So they can track you online and offline.