UBER’s App Will Soon Begin Tracking Driving Behavior

Uber Technologies Inc. has developed new technology to track when drivers of the ride-hailing app go too fast, cut corners or brake harshly by monitoring the sensors in their smartphones.

The software, part of an updated version of Uber’s app for drivers that is rolling out to dozens of cities during a test phase this week, could help the company’s more than one million drivers by giving them more feedback when a customer rates them poorly.

Starting Friday, drivers in at least nine U.S. cities including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago will be shown a summary of how smooth their driving was for each trip, including separate scores for acceleration and braking and a map highlighting the physical location of each incident. Any time drivers go over the speed limit, Uber will alert them within its app in real time.

In different groups of test cities, Uber will also use the gyroscope inside drivers’ phones to detect when they move or touch the device to, for example, compose a text while driving.

Uber said the main purpose of collecting this data is to help drivers become better at their jobs and give them feedback that is more detailed than the five-star ratings customers leave for each driver. Uber said that during its tests, drivers won’t face any negative consequences for low scores on the new safety measures, but that is an option the company may explore in the future.

This field of technology, known as telematics, may finally be on the verge of widespread adoption due partly to smartphones, ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft, and a range of startups extolling the benefits of driver tracking. They include Automatic, a small device which plugs into any car and helps coach new drivers and track expenses; Zubie, a similar device that helps lower insurance rates; and Zendrive Inc., a San Francisco startup that helps dozens of companies monitor fleets of drivers by assigning each one a score.

Other pitfalls could arise from relying too much to on a technology that is still relatively unproven. Uber’s top U.S. rival, Lyft Inc., has held discussions with telematics-technology providers but decided the software was still too early in its development to roll out to its thousands of drivers, Chris Lambert, the company’s chief technology officer, said in an interview in January.

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