Hailing a ride from a TNC app is usually easy. What’s harder is managing what happens between the time the car pulls up to the curb and when you shut (don’t slam!) the door. Depending on your tendencies and the driver’s, there can be a lot going of yapping on between point A and point B, not to mention the detours and the literal baggage that get in the way. Well, if you happen to shell out for an Uber Black ride, you now have more ways to control how your ride goes with the tap of the app — that includes being able to snag a silent ride.
Starting today, Uber Black and Uber Black SUV drivers in dozens of U.S. cities (full list here) will have to come into compliance with new company rules to ensure a consistent experience across the service. New rules are in effect concerning driver conduct as well as specifications for vehicle model, make, exteriors, and interiors — so, expect leather rear seats every time. Drivers must maintain a rating of at least 4.85 stars and meet insurance and license requirements for commercial or livery drivers in their applicable jurisdictions.
For the rider, there are two big amenities coming to the Black experience. One of them is a 15-minute grace period once the vehicle arrives to get in the car, though a per-minute waiting fee will apply after 5 minutes. At an airport, the grace period is 5 minutes with the fee kicking in at 2 minutes. No cancellation fee will be charged if the ride is missed. Customers can also call live agents for “Premium Support” within 24 hours after a ride if there’s something wrong that needs to be fixed.
But most of the noise so far has been made about a few new toggles riders can switch on to let drivers know what they want from their driver. These include temperature settings, help with luggage, and a new Quiet Mode. Yes, hit the switch and the driver shuts up for the duration of the ride.
If you’re paying for Uber Black, you’re looking for an experience you wouldn’t find on UberX. Fine. The problem is, there’s more of a burden laid on the back of the, in all likelihood, fewer drivers that meet these new requirements. You’ll be paying more, but you probably won’t know how much of that money will make it to your driver — given the May 8 TNC strike organized by regional drivers’ associations, we may presume not much — and how much will go to patching the $1.8 billion Uber lost last year.
In the meantime, for all of the plebeians who want to be left to their own literal or metaphysical devices while on a ride, we might need to just bravely be courteous and ask the driver if they can keep the journey as quiet as possible. And hell, just do the same even if you’re on an Uber Black. Respect is free to give and take and we’re all worth more as human beings for it.