Uber’s app to help shy drivers start a chat

Part of an update to the Uber app is aimed at tackling a surprising problem – shyness.

It seems drivers have spoken about wanting to avoid largely silent trips as they and their passengers struggle to make conversation.

Which is fair enough, given it’s a total stranger who has just gotten into their car.

And so we have “conversation starters” – where the driver’s profile features fun facts (where they were born, that they can speak several languages or which footy team they follow).

... you can have other drivers who might be a bit more shy and this caters to those.

Uber's Henry Greenacre on the new "conversation starters" in the app

The idea being that the passenger knows something about the driver before they get in – which should make conversation easier.

“You have some drivers who just love to strike up a chat straight away but then you can have other drivers who might be a bit more shy and this caters to those,” said Uber’s NSW and ACT general manager Henry Greenacre.

“It’s one of those features which some drivers use and others might not use – it’s totally up to them.”

It's certainly likely to benefit the driver – there is the suggestion that conversation-free rides can lead to lower ratings for drivers.

And low ratings can lead to a driver being kicked out of Uber.

“We always find those drivers who have those great casual conversations with riders are always really highly rated,” Mr Greenacre said.

Perhaps of more interest to passengers is the introduction of a messaging function.

Called Intercom, it allows drivers and riders to communicate directly – via text or phone.

“Its two-way in-app communication,” he said.

“If you’ve requested an Uber, the driver is on the way and you’ve got some special pick-up instructions, like which side of the road you’re waiting on, you can type that into the Uber app and it appears for the driver.”

There are even plans to introduce the ability to instantly translate messages into the recipient’s language at some stage in the future.

The upgrade will also allow passengers to praise the driver from a selection of Compliments – including “entertaining driver” or “awesome music”.