Uber passengers can now get a more spacious ride and a less talkative driver — if they’re willing to shell out a few extra dollars.
The ride-hailing giant launched “comfort” rides in dozens of cities Tuesday. Riders are guaranteed 36 inches of legroom in “newer” cars — meaning those that are under five years old — and they can request a preferred air temperature. Riders can also use the app to tell drivers they don’t want to chat, avoiding what some consider an awkward exchange.
Uber is responding to requests from business travelers and others who say they just want to work or rest quietly when they’re on their way to the airport.
“It’s a way to set up an expectation up front...it takes some guess work out of the process,” said Aydin Ghajar, senior product manager at Uber.
In the early days of ride-hailing, when drivers for Uber and its main U.S. rival Lyft began picking up riders in their personal cars, riders were often chatty, asking the drivers lots of questions.
“It was so new and innovative that a lot of people were curious about other things they (drivers) did,” said Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy, a blog and online community for drivers. “Over the years, it’s gotten more transactional.”
Uber rolled out a “quiet mode” for Uber Black — its premium car service — in May, which left some drivers feeling like robots.
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