Uber is making it easy to spot a ride with a hardware accessory called Beacon, a light fixture drivers can add in their car to signal passengers.
Beacon is a Bluetooth-enabled, circular LED display that’s shaped like the Uber logo. Drivers are meant to place it on the inside of their windshields, and reflections in the glass keep the driver aware of what color Beacon is displaying.
The color can be controlled by the passenger — once a ride has been confirmed, Uber users can tap the Beacon logo in the app and slide through a palette to choose a color. The color then takes over the entire screen of your phone and matches the driver’s Beacon — that way, users can signal drivers as well by waving their phone. These colors can be customized for special occasions, like St. Patrick’s Day.
Beacon has a battery, so drivers don’t need to keep it charged as the company says it should last “several evenings.” That should also permit a cord-free dashboard.
Beacon aims to eliminate a big problem with most ride-sharing apps — finding the driver or passenger when the two are in close proximity. In fact, Uber’s announcement comes weeks after Lyft unveiled its own solution to the problem, called Amp. Amp resembles the shape of the popular Lyft moustache, and like the Beacon, users can control colors and display the same color on their phones.
The Amp has a secondary display on the rear, though, which offers greetings and more when passengers get in the car.
Uber’s Beacon emerged out of its Spot pilot program in Seattle last year, which also aimed to help drivers find their passengers and vice versa. The company is also starting small with Beacon. Drivers in select cities including Denver, Miami, and Nashville, Tennessee in the U.S., and Newcastle, U.K., can expect to get a unit for their car.
“We’ll be distributing devices to drivers at community events in the coming days to make sure on one of our busiest nights — New Year’s Eve — rides are as smooth as possible,” runs a related message on the Uber blog.
Lyft is also planning to have drivers equipped with Amp by New Year’s Eve.
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