In brief: Everyone has moments when they’re feeling less than sociable, especially while being driven around by a ride-hailing firm after a hard day’s work or a night of drinking. But many drivers feel obligated to make small talk, fearing a bad rating if they stay silent. To avoid this social awkwardness, Uber has introduced Quiet Mode.
The mode is one of several preferences Uber introduced yesterday for its luxury Uber Black and UberSUV services, which use premium cars and professional drivers who must maintain a rating of 4.85 or higher. Uber says the preferences have to be set up before hailing a ride, and that they offer “an increasing number of ways for riders to personalize their experiences.”
Quiet Mode lets users select from 'quiet preferred', 'happy to chat' or 'no preference,’ meaning you won’t have to tell the driver you don’t wish to talk—something most people are unlikely to feel comfortable with. Riders can also set their preferred temperature and request help with luggage. Premium rides have also received extended pickup times and live phone support.
Even if you do select the ‘quiet preferred’ option, the driver isn’t under any obligation to keep silent during the trip. “It’s not mandatory,” Uber product manager Aydin Ghajar told TechCrunch. “The driver is an independent contractor. We’re just communicating the rider’s preference. The driver can have that information and do with it what they want.” Ignoring the request will likely result in poor rating for the driver, of course.
Given that Uber Black and UberSUV can cost double or treble the price of a standard ride, it’s not surprising to see the company trying to tempt people into using the expensive services by introducing these preferences.