Your Private Driver: The Perfect Pickup

This is a weekly column that offers news, insights, analysis, and user tips for rideshare platforms like Uber and Lyft. Look for it every Monday after the live show, right here on

Since there’s no real Uber news this week and I haven’t talked to anyone who’s taken a ride in one of those fancy self-driving cars yet, I’m switching back from commentary and analysis to more tips for a better rideshare experience. One of the biggest sources of complaints for riders and anxiety for drivers is the initial pickup, the part where your driver has to find exactly where you are to get you into the car. I frequently hear complaints from riders about drivers who claim to show up and then cancel without ever being seen, and vice versa from drivers who complain that their passengers that keep them waiting around without ever making themselves known. Hopefully the advice in this article will reduce the number of these situations.

Don’t rely on the pin

Rideshare apps unfortunately make it way too easy to incorrectly enter your pickup location. An errant thumb can throw your location off by several blocks, or a mis-calibrated GPS in your phone can also cause errors. What to do?

The best solution is to manually type in your address. If you’re not sure of your exact address, you can type in the name of the store or business you’re patronizing. As long as you have the city and street right, the apps will take care of the rest.

If that doesn’t work and you just have to rely on the pin, zoom in a little on the map to make sure you’ve placed it as close to your actual location as possible. Seriously, in a busy area just having the pin on the right side of the street can make a huge difference.

Finally, it never hurts to call or text your driver to let him or her know exactly where you are, just in case. This avoids issues such as navigation apps routing drivers into back alleys when you’re at the front door, as well as other problems which I’ll get into later.

Be on time

When a driver arrives at a pickup location, a rider has five minutes to get into the vehicle (two minutes for UberPool and Lyft Line) before they risk being charged a cancellation fee. The drivers’ cut of this fee makes them significantly more money than waiting a few extra minutes for you to come to the car would, which is why many drivers will cancel and drive off instead of starting the “meter” early. The only real way to avoid this is not requesting a ride until you’re sure you can be ready to walk out the door in five minutes or less.

Special situations

Busy streets: Your driver should not have to block traffic and risk getting a ticket to pick you up. Find a safe place where your driver can at the very least pull out of the way of thru traffic. Bus stops do not count as safe places; bus drivers can be driven to irrational levels of anger by rideshare vehicles in their way.

Gated communities and apartment complexes: You’re responsible for telling your driver how to get through the gates, whether it be a key code to dial or just a message to the security guard. Failure to do this is a good way to rack up cancellation fees. Sure, some drivers will call you first and ask for instructions on how to get to you, but all of them won’t.  (An example, I actually had one passenger complain about drivers constantly pulling up to her complex’s unmanned gate and cancelling after two minutes. She would text drivers that she was past the gate at the end of the street, but left no instructions on actually how anyone was supposed to get to the end of the street! I only managed to get past the gate because I lucked out and followed another resident in. Otherwise, I would’ve cancelled the ride as well.)

Shopping malls and other large places: Text your driver to let them know what store or entrance you’re waiting outside of. This could save you a long walk to the other side of the mall to find your ride. Same principle goes for beaches, parks, stadiums, arenas, and the like. Oh, and speaking of stadiums and arenas….

Special events: Taking an Uber or Lyft to sporting events and concerts is usually pretty simple, but getting back can be quite the headache if you’re not prepared. First, make sure you know where the designated rideshare pickup location is. Every venue handles this differently, so you’ll have to check with their website or social media accounts to find out this information. Secondly, BE PATIENT! Traffic at these events is always a nightmare, and your driver isn’t going to be able to get through the sea of cars that quickly. Allow some extra time for your driver to arrive. If you’re really impatient you can walk to someplace off-site and away from traffic and request a ride from there. This will not only get you a quicker ride, but may also have the benefit of avoiding some of the surge pricing that inevitably shows up at the end of just about any major event.

Sekani Wright is an experienced Uber driver working in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. If you have any questions you would like answered for this column, you can contact him at djsekani at gmail dot com, or on twitter and reddit at the username djsekani. Have a safe trip!