If you have ever used Uber or Lyft before, you know these rideshare services depend on the GPS to pick up passengers and deliver them from one destination to another. But what if the route on the navigational application is longer and a driver knows a shorter road?
That will save both the driver’s and the rider’s time, and the fare will be lower. But what is the official policy on GPS directions for Uber and Lyft drivers? Let’s find out in this article.
Do Uber and Lyft drivers have to follow the GPS directions?
If you are carrying a single passenger, the driver can use his/her discretion to choose the fastest route to the destination. However, drivers of Uber and Lyft must follow the app’s direction on shared rides.
A lot of factors can determine the route a driver chooses on a ride, and we will cover all extensively in the coming sections.
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How Strict Should Rideshare Drivers Follow the GPS?
Rideshare drivers only have to follow the GPS strictly when they are carrying more than one passenger going to different destinations. For Uber, drivers on UberPool or UberPool Express trips cannot deviate from the GPS direction.
This is because the direction the navigation software recommends is the most likely route to pick other passengers. But this is not always the fastest or safest route to the destination.
Drivers can, however, follow another direction or that of the passengers since they usually know the best way to their destination.
For Lyft drivers, you can follow the passenger’s suggestion. Again, the assumption is that they know the best route to their destination.
However, you must follow the direction of the app on shared rides.
Often, the app’s direction is not always correct. Even navigation apps like Google Maps and Waze, which have much more matured algorithms and databases, cannot always predict the road condition at different times.
Drivers drive a lot and have more in-depth knowledge of the realities on the ground. Sometimes, an experienced driver will ignore the GPS for a variety of reasons, but this doesn’t always mean they are trying to shortchange the passenger.
But drivers need to tell their passengers the reason for changing routes.
Do Drivers Use Their Own Phone As GPS?
Yes, drivers use their own phones as a GPS, but most use the inbuilt navigation tool in their ridesharing app. Ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft have dedicated GPS systems built into their mobile apps. These apps can work on any mobile device that can use the ridesharing company’s driver app.
For example, Uber’s driver app comes with Uber Nav, the company’s GPS navigation tool, which it uses to track drivers, riders, and which the driver uses to pick passengers.
For convenience, ridesharing companies use phone-based GPS systems. Most drivers and passengers already know how to use them, and they don’t require the installation of new hardware.
However, a lot of drivers also use secondary GPS navigation tools such as Google Maps and Waze. This is because their driver app’s GPS is not always the most reliable.
For example, Waze can provide updates on accidents, road construction, and other developments that can require using a different route from the one the driver app suggested.
What GPS System Do Rideshare Drivers Use?
Rideshare drivers use a broad range of GPS systems. They can range from the popular Google Maps to sophisticated navigational equipment made by Garmin. Here are examples of common GPS systems popular among rideshare drivers:
Google Maps is the gold standard of GPS mapping systems. It is compatible with Android and iOS devices, free, and ships with Android devices.
Google Maps provides a user-friendly, clutter-free interface, optional voice-guided navigation, exit alerts, and so much more.
You can also save your location and use Google Maps offline. Plus, the app gets real-time traffic and road data from Waze, the driver-centric GPS service Google acquired in 2013.
Apple Maps is the preferred GPS navigation system for many rideshare drivers who own an iPhone or Apple smartwatch. Since the release of the iOS 11 update, this once-buggy app has improved significantly.
Apple’s acquisition of Coherent Navigation and its partnership with Tom Tom now allows its navigation map app to deliver real-time traffic data and route suggestions that are accurate and reliable.
One excellent feature of Apple Maps is that it works seamlessly on the company’s wearable devices. Unfortunately, it is exclusive to Apple devices.
Uber Nav resides in the Uber Driver app. It is the in-house navigation app Uber developed for its drivers. Uber Nav aggregates data from diverse mapping systems, including Google Maps, Tom Tom, deCarta, Bing Maps, and others, to deliver a reliable mapping system.
Uber Nav is essential for drivers driving UberPool because it provides multiple pickups, drop-offs, and overlapping trips along the same route. However, many drivers often use Waze and Google Maps as a backup because Uber Nav is not the most accurate on long-distance trips.
Waze has been a part of Google since 2013 but dedicates itself to providing top-notch traffic intelligence to drivers. This app not only delivers an accurate navigation map but also provides information regarding speed traps, traffic jams, accidents, and so much more.
The success of this app comes largely from its millions of users who provide instant feedback on road conditions. And it is dedicated to creating a fulfilling, stress-free driving experience.
Navmi is a free navigation tool that sources its mapping data from OpenStreetMap. The app is ads based, but many drivers pay the $2 fee to opt into the premium service. What many drivers love about this product is that it can use voice-guided navigation so you can concentrate on the road while driving.
The app is ideal for offline navigation because it downloads the map and stores it on your phone. This makes it ideal for places with a weak or non-existent internet connection. But this also makes it extremely data-hungry
There is also Navigon and Sygic, which are both paid GPS navigation apps. Most drivers make do with the first five on this list, though.
Which Map Data Do Uber/Lyft Use?
Uber’s map service relies heavily on the Google Map API. It gets most of its navigational data from Google’s massive geospatial resources, which encompass most parts of the world.
Uber gets turn by turn navigation from deCarta, which it bought in 2015. The company also buys data from Google Maps and gets traffic intelligence from Tom Tom.
Lyft gets its mapping data from Google Maps, like its bigger rival Uber. But it also allows drivers to opt into other mapping services like Waze, which is also a Google company.
For most ridesharing companies, the most cost-effective and reliable mapping service with the coverage they need is Google Maps.
Can Passengers Tell Rideshare Drivers Which Route to Take?
Yes, passengers can suggest routes to rideshare drivers. Often, passengers know the route more than the driver, and their direction can help save time. Sometimes, the passenger may know a new development, such as a road accident that will make a route impassable.
However, the driver may take the route a passenger suggests only if the trip is not a shared ride. Different ridesharing companies have different rules for shared rides, but most favor the driver following the directions of their app.
What Can Passengers Do If a Driver Takes a Detour?
Rideshare drivers take detours for several reasons. Before you freak out, do the following when your Uber or Lyft driver takes a different route.
- The first thing you want to do if your driver takes a detour is to check your end-address. Many times, passengers input the wrong address and then become bewildered when the driver takes a different route from the one they had in mind.
- If your Uber or Lyft or any other rideshare driver takes a detour, ask him/her politely the reason for a change in the route. Maybe the driver knows a shorter route, or the navigation app has sent an alert of a speed trap or accident along your route. Most of the time, the driver will have a good explanation for their decision.
- If the driver’s reason is not satisfactory, you can report the driver to the rideshare company. Some drivers take a longer route on purpose (called longhauling) to increase the distance and time of the trip so they can get more pay.
What If the Driver Takes Too Long to Drive?
If the driver takes too long to drive to the pickup point, you may have to cancel if the delay can disrupt your plans. However, if you cancel, Uber will charge you a cancellation fee after some time to compensate the driver for his/her troubles. You can beat this fee if you cancel five minutes before from the time you ordered the ride.
What If the Driver Drives Too Slow?
Rideshare drivers can deliberately drive slowly to increase the time of the ride to get higher pay. This is rare, though, and it is not the only reason rideshare drivers and even their traditional taxi counterparts often drive slowly.
Drivers can take it slow for many reasons, including:
- To Protect Their Livelihood: If your income depends on your driving records, you will do everything to keep it clean. Most passengers don’t think this way, but your Uber driver probably doubles as a cabbie in another life and also drives for other rideshare companies. Drivers will do everything in their power to keep their driver’s license. If that means going slower, it’s fine so long as you reach your destination in peace.
- It’s not Safe to Drive Faster: This is also less noticeable to passengers, but drivers know it is often difficult to drive past a certain speed limit in most cities. They have to contend with potholes, traffic jams, the wayward guy who pulls out in front, and the crazy driver beating a red light. These make for a hectic day. A driver will do well to take things slow. Bear with them.
- They Drive a Lot: If all you do is drive all day, you might as well relax at the steering and soak in your environment. Only inexperienced drivers drive erratically, but most will cool down after some time.
- The Company May Be Tracking Them: Uber tracks its drivers to identify those that drive dangerously. Sometimes, it is a passenger that reports this behavior. If you know someone may monitor the way you drive, you will slow down.
Do Passengers Get Discounts If Drivers Take Wrong Turns?
You may get a discount if the driver takes a wrong turn or route. The route must be longer in time and distance and significantly exceed the original price quoted before the trip began.
However, the detour must be the driver’s decision, not yours. If you wasted time by picking up a friend or telling the driver to take another route, you might not get a discount or refund.