Uber Wants To Drive You To People Now, Not Just Places

Can’t remember what restaurant your friends said to meet you at? Forget if that’s South Main Street or North Main Street? Too far along in the evening’s entertainments to dial your phone and ask? Uber is now happy to figure out where you’re supposed to be going by taking you directly to your friends.

Uber announced “Uber to friends” today, an app update that directs the driver in the direction of wherever someone you know says they are.

It’s to offset the whole, “Where are you? I can’t hear you, where should I meet you? Hello?” problem that Uber seems to think is a “common question we ask friends and family” when meeting up.

First, you sync your contacts list to Uber. Then, when you hail a car, you tell Uber you want it to drive you to one of your contacts. Uber prompts that contact (using the contact information in your phone) for their location, and, if they accept, sets it as the destination for your ride.

The location is static, meaning it can’t change after you’re en route: it’s a location grabbed once, when the contact says ‘yes,’ and does not update if they move around; Uber isn’t actually stalking your friend’s GPS in realtime. So your Uber driver can still easily drop you off at the bar your buddies were at half an hour ago, before they forgot you were already in a car and moved on.

Basically, it’s add-on to the existing feature that lets you share your ETA with anyone you choose. And your contact has to consent to share their location (“no” is a valid thing to say), Uber’s not just grabbing it out of the blue.

Still, though, there’s something a little strange about a transportation app “making people your destination.” And Uber is indeed apparently very, very focused on people with the latest update, which is also integrating Snapchat features into the app so that you can use custom Uber filters from your Uber while you’re Ubering. Uber.

Perhaps the most telling statement in Uber’s entire announcement, though, is one throwaway sentence up top: “Gone are the days of toggling between apps.”

If Uber can make itself an app you don’t deviate from while you’re using it, that’s good for Uber — and anyone it chooses to sell ads to or enter business partnerships with. Integrating your contacts and Snapchat account into Uber make it just that much easier for the company to rent time with your eyeballs to other companies.

Because that’s what Uber is slowly starting to do. The company already announced a partnership with ad-serving start-up Yext back in September to bring “hail an Uber” buttons to retailers’ sites, in exchange for which you’d be served targeted ads while on that trip.

The number of folks who may look at a business website and immediately tap a button for a car to get there in is probably not very large, but the pool of Uber riders to whom the company would eventually love to serve ads no doubt is.

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