Seattle will be the first city where Uber offers scheduled rides to app users with a business profile.
Uber will allow riders to schedule a ride as early as 30 days in advance.
The new service will be first offered to business travelers in the Seattle area starting at 11 a.m. Thursday, though the company has promised quick expansion to other cities.
Hoping to please meticulous planners with loaded calendars, Tom Fallows, Uber’s director of global experiences, said the service is aimed at those who “want an extra degree of assurance Uber will be there when they head out,” such as travelers with early morning flights.
“They sleep better knowing their Uber ride is arranged,” Fallows said.
To schedule a trip, app users with a business profile choose a route and set a date and time. Scheduled rides are priced like a normal Uber ride and subject to surge pricing.
“If you’re requesting the ride at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning and it’s super high demand, surge may apply just like it normally would,” Fallows said. “We send riders a push notification on the way, notifying them if there’s any surge.”
Passengers can modify their scheduled rides before the driver has been dispatched. Once the push notification is sent and the driver is en route, users will have 5 minutes to cancel without penalty, Fallows said.
Initially, scheduled rides will be available only on UberX, but Fallows said the company plans to expand it to black cars and other Uber lines soon.
Uber chose to launch in Seattle because developers here built the system and the city has a lot of business travelers, Fallows said.
Although scheduling is a simple concept, Fallows said the architecture that runs the dispatching system requires complex algorithms that determine the right time to ask a driver to pick up a scheduled ride.
The algorithm weighs proximity, traffic obstacles and the likelihood a driver will accept a scheduled ride, among other factors.
The best driver for a given ride won’t always be the one nearest to the person requesting it, Fallows said.
For example, “We may know a driver who currently has a passenger in the car is headed to drop them off nearby your house or pickup location,” Fallows said. “The best driver to be offered your ride is not an available driver 10 blocks away, but is a driver who is currently occupied but will soon be free two blocks away.”
Fallows said Uber’s engineers in Seattle will be watching how the new feature is used and eager for feedback from customers.
“There’s nothing like having things happen in your own backyard to excite you about building and testing,” he said.