Taxi apps like Uber could be distracting drivers, even causing accidents, a New York Times article has suggested.
Drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft need to have iPhones in their vehicle in order to pick up passengers. That means that their route is tracked, and they have detailed passenger information. But it also means that there’s always a screen in front of the drivers.
The rise of ride-sharing apps, as well as taxi apps like Flywheel, mean that drivers often need to interact with their screen as fast as they can to gain business. An Uber service call, for example, will usually require a response within 15 seconds. Many Uber drivers operate in neighbourhoods they’re not familiar with, and they rely on GPS navigation devices, which are also distracting.
Now questions are being raised over whether it’s safe for apps to encourage drivers to quickly check their phones will driving. The Times doesn’t offer any statistics. At least one law firm is advertising for clients who were injured in accidents involving Uber drivers, though — so someone thinks this phenom might be significant.
On New Year’s Eve last year, an Uber driver hit and killed a six-year-old girl in San Francisco. It’s apparently disputed whether the driver was using his phone at the time of the incident.
The New York Times spoke to a member of the Uber Drivers Network, who said that “it’s just a matter of pressing and accepting it and seeing where the fare is.” But he also said that “it can be distracting if you are driving and you have to look at the phone.”
We reached out to Uber for this article and will update this story if we hear back.