Uber has introduced a new feature that the company claims will help its customers identify their cabs more easily, without having to go through the whole process of matching the license plate number. Called ‘Uber Beacon’, the device is a glowing, Bluetooth-enabled Uber logo with an ability to change colors. The device needs to be affixed to the inside of the windshields, so once a driver accepts a ride request, the customer will be able to assign a specific color to the beacon, which should take the guesswork out of the equation once the vehicle arrives for pickup. The new feature will be rolled out in four cities starting on New Year’s Eve, with Miami, Nashville and Denver becoming the first three locations in the U.S. to get the all-new feature.
Uber, however, isn’t going to restrict the beacon to the U.S. market. Uber cabs in Newcastle, England, will also get the glowing new hardware on New Year’s Eve, making it the first city outside the U.S. to get the novel feature. More locations are expected to be added to the list in the coming months, and according to Uber’s product lead on the Beacon project, Mr. Nikhil Goel, the company is looking to make the glowing beacon “ubiquitous” by the end of 2017. One thing to note here is that the devices will be given out free-of-cost, so Uber drivers aren’t really having to spend anything from their pockets to get in on the action.
According to the senior design lead at Uber, Mr. John Badalamenti, the company was apparently enthused by the results of the SPOT pilot project launched in Seattle last year, whereby drivers were provided with Bluetooth-enabled LED lights that were attached to the vehicles much the same way these beacons are now projected to work. Customers could control the color of the LED lights to identify their rides more easily, and the experiment reportedly lowered cancellation rates drastically. The positive feedback from that little experiment was what apparently convinced Uber to plan for a wider rollout of the Beacon, so maybe it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to expect the new feature to be rolled out globally in the coming months.