Uber takes its app down new road with re­design

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS -

SAN FRAN­CISCO >> Uber is tak­ing its ride-hail­ing app down a new road in an ef­fort to make it smarter, sim­pler and more fun to use.

The re­designed app also will seek to mine per­sonal in­for­ma­tion stored on smart­phones in a change that could raise pri­vacy con­cerns, even though it will be up to in­di­vid­ual users to let Uber peer into their cal­en­dars and ad­dress books.

The change rep­re­sents the big­gest over­haul in four years to Uber’s pop­u­lar app, which is used by millions of peo­ple to sum­mon cars in more than 450 cities around the world for rides that are usu­ally cheaper than tra­di­tional taxis.

But as Uber has grown, the app has been adding fea­tures that have made it more dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate. The new de­sign and fea­tures are de­signed to save pas­sen­gers time and money. The new app will be­gin to roll out Wed­nes­day, though it could take a cou­ple weeks be­fore all users get the up­date.

As part of the new look, Uber will spell out more clearly how long it will take and how much it will cost to reach a des­ti­na­tion in dif­fer­ent types of avail­able cars. The app will also rec­om­mend the best places to be picked up in con­gested ar­eas.

The re­pro­grammed app also will study a rider’s trav­el­ing his­tory and list fre­quently or­dered des­ti­na­tions as “short­cuts.”

In another time-sav­ing move that will test how much users trust the San Fran­cisco com­pany with their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, users will be able to give the app ac­cess to their cal­en­dars so ad­dresses listed in an en­try can au­to­mat­i­cally ap­pear in the Uber app near the time of the ap­point­ment. Uber plans to in­tro­duce this op­tion by next month.

Start­ing in De­cem­ber, Uber will also seek ac­cess to users’ per­sonal con­tacts so they can ask for a ride to where a friend cur­rently is, even if the friend isn’t home. If this fea­ture is ac­ti­vated, Uber’s app will con­tact the friend to ask if he or she is will­ing to share the cur­rent lo­ca­tion. If the friend doesn’t have the Uber app, the re­quest will be sent through a text mes­sage to the mo­bile num­ber listed in the ad­dress book.

Uber says it doesn’t ex­pect pri­vacy ob­jec­tions be­cause users will have to agree to al­low the app to scan their cal­en­dars and ad­dress books. And peo­ple whose lo­ca­tions are be­ing sought through the new ad­dress-book fea­ture will be able to de­cide if they want to share the in­for­ma­tion.

The re­designed app also will of­fer other fea­tures from other ser­vices that Uber rid­ers might en­joy dur­ing the trip to their des­ti­na­tion. The ad­di­tions in­clude the abil­ity to check out restau­rant re­views through Yelp, send mes­sages through Snapchat and lis­ten to mu­sic on Pan­dora.

ERIC RISBERG - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this Dec. 16, 2014, photo a man leaves the headquarters of Uber in San Fran­cisco. Uber is tak­ing its ride-hail­ing app down a new road in an ef­fort to make it smarter, sim­pler and more fun to use. The re­designed app also will seek to mine per­sonal in­for­ma­tion stored on smart­phones in a change that could raise pri­vacy con­cerns, even though it will be up to in­di­vid­ual users to let Uber peer into their cal­en­dars and ad­dress books.

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