Needed: Better Location Tech for RideShare Services

February 21, 2017
By: Doug Mohney

Most location-based services have been supported well enough by their underlying hardware and systems.  Foursquare (News - Alert) provides the local restaurants nearby, Swarm (mostly) delivers where you are in order to report to friends and social media followers, and map services (usually) get us to where we need to go by following a combination of navigational signals and road templates. 

Uber, Lyft, and other ride services have pushed the bounds of location tech to the point of frustration for end-users, both drivers and customers alike.  I speak from personal experience in using both Uber and Lyft over the past couple of months to get around the cities of Las Vegas and Ft. Lauderdale for CES (News - Alert) and ITEXPO.

 In trying to get a ride from the ITEXPO networking reception at the Atlantic Hotel back to the Ft. Lauderdale Renaissance, I blithely clicked on the address location for the Atlantic within the ride sharing app – 601 North Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. However, the hotel fills up a block surrounded by four streets, with the hotel entrance and cab drop-off located on the Terramar street side of the hotel. 

The confusion starts. A ride services driver typically goes to the address assigned and logged in the ride sharing service. For my pickup at the Atlantic, I ended up having to talk the driver through a deeper discussion of where I was in relationship to the listed address, which meant detailing that I was at the Terramar side of the hotel.

At larger properties, this is a much bigger headache. Casinos on the Las Vegas “strip” can have two and three pickup points, but sometimes there’s a mix-up between location registration, the backend software, and where the driver thinks the pickup is to take place.  On several different occasions with different ride services in Vegas, I had registered my location at one pickup point at a property only to have the driver end up at a different location.

Compounding matters further is when a driver calls for clarification. A rider may not be familiar with the area and drivers with English as a second language can have difficulties being understood.

The set pickup point function within those apps can also go astray.  When I would call for rides to the Ft. Lauderdale Renaissance, I would have to check to make sure the app locked onto the hotel address location 1617 17th Street.  Trying to call a rideshare on the fourth floor, the locator pin would mysteriously jump to Eisenhower Blvd, a location a rough block or so away.

It should be noted the flaw is within/on the passenger call side with the input of the rider location.  Stock GPS navigation from point A to point B via in-car or cellphone map works fine.  Ride share services might argue the flaw is with me – I don't know where I'm at and rely on the knowledge of the app to be correct... which begs the point of using the app at all.

When confusion between pickup and driver happens, the end-result depends a lot on the individual driver. I've had a couple at Ft. Lauderdale Airport simply cancel the ride without explanation. In Las Vegas and the aforementioned Atlantic hotel ride, I ended up talking the driver to my location.

Location-based technology is always improving, with the latest generation of assisted GPS (A-GPS) using data from satellites and cell tower data. Enhanced 911 (E-911) services for cellular phones have been a long-standing debate, with carriers currently required to provide accuracy within 300 meters – that's not exactly accurate enough to pick out a location between three pickup points at a Vegas hotel. It would be nice if the public safety community and carriers could come to the table with a stronger and standardized way to provide more precise location services for both commercial and emergency services.




Edited by Alicia Young