I had a flight the next morning. Rather than wait and return with the group I walked to a dark lonely city street corner and fired up the Uber app on my phone. The car was only two minutes away. Sweet.
The app’s map display showed the progress of the car as it came to pick me up. It was getting nearer, but in the process the car icon was jumping sideways two or three blocks. Then, five minutes later, it stopped, apparently near me. No car in sight. The streetlight went out (of course). Call the driver – “Hello, I’m on the corner but don’t see you. You are in a parking lot? Flash your lights. OK, I see you about a block and a half away. I will be right there.”
On the ride to the hotel the driver said “The GPS has been horrible today. I have lost several customers. The GPS is like this sometimes and seems to be getting worse. We can’t find the riders and they can’t find us. ”
A quick internet search showed that my experience was not an isolated one. The proliferation of GPS jamming “personal privacy devices,” other disruption sources, the lack of any systematic disruption monitoring, virtually no enforcement, and the absence of a wide area, wireless GPS alternative seems to be eating away at Uber. It must also be eroding income at Lyft, UPS, FedEx, and every other professional who makes their living finding the most efficient way from point A to point B. I’m sure it is particularly vexing to companies like Uber and Lyft with business models built on geolocation.
Completely exasperated from a long day of struggling around the city with her jumping GPS my driver tsaid “I don’t know how long it will be worthwhile to keep doing this.”
A good question, indeed.
Cover Image: whosdrivingyou.org