What is Uber's Trip Upgrade?

Uber is constantly seeking ways to improve the service to their customers by reducing waiting time for trip requests.One of the upgrades introduced is a trip upgrade, where Ubers app will check to see which driver accepted the trip and compared that driver to other drivers closer to the passenger. If they find a driver closer to the passengers picks up location, they will re-assign to pick up to the closer driver.

On many occasions, Uber upgrades are well-intentioned and accepted by both passengers and drivers, however, some upgrades can be problematic for both sides, so we are analyzing this latest addition and presenting it here.

The Uber Trip Upgrade Process

A driver receives a request that is 10 minutes driving time away from their position. The driver accepts the request and starts to drive towards the pickup hoping the fare will not cancel. The driver has driven five minutes and a second request pops up in the system which is much closer to you. Ubers trip upgrade app will reassign the first request to a driver closer to them, and no more than five minutes away and re-assign you to the new call which is closer than five minutes to you. This way the first passenger gets the ride but not the same driver and you get a fare but not the same passenger.

This new feature offered by Uber works well due to the saturation of drivers as well as fares in most areas. Where there is a higher concentration of drivers and passengers the Uber trip upgrade method will work better. So saturation per mile is important factors for success. Uber's destination filter was a great success due to this level of saturation as well as the tax-deductible miles it generated for period 1.

The good, the bad and the conclusion

The Good

Uber pays its driver per mile and per minute of period three only, so the good is less driving time in period two as well as less probability of cancellation since drivers will be able to reach fares quicker. This is an acute issue since many times a driver has hit unknown bottle-neck situations such as road construction, accidents, traffic light issues and any number of situations that make the drive slower than expected, which can lead to a cancellation. While it might not be the driver's fault, a canceled passenger is both bad for the driver and Uber, since customer satisfaction is what pushes income and profitability.

Increased income from surges is a potentially winning situation here. The trip upgrade doesn't factor into its decision surges and boosts; it merely seeks ways to source drivers to passengers efficiently. So, if a driver is in a surge or near one and suddenly gets a trip upgrade, potentially they could get a surge price or be upgraded to a higher surge price. The excellent feature of surge trip upgrade is that the feature will not let the driver move from a high surge rate to a lower one, it will only move the driver across to a similar rate or a higher one, so many times drivers will move from a 1.5x to a 2 or 3x.

More action less thinking is a by-product of this feature. Drivers can react to pick-ups as they usually do with the sub-conscious knowledge that they might get a fare change that will improve their time utilization.

Trip Upgrade doesn't switch between products, which means a driver will not be transferred from n UberX ride fare to an UberPool or UberEats request.

The Bad

Ratings are an issue with some drivers and passengers. For instance, from a drivers point of view, they accepted a 5-star passenger and suddenly get bumped down to a 4.5 star one. The same goes for a passenger choosing a 5-star driver and getting a 4.5 star one. It works both ways. Also, some passengers and drivers know each other, and the request is a formality. Another issue is car choice, some passengers choose a specific car they prefer, while drivers at night might be redirected to a drunken fare if its closer.

The loss of choice is a major issue for many drivers and passenger. The drivers might not want to change their destination set by the first fare, which leads us to ask, is Uber allowed to change an independent contractors terms of service without their consent? After all, every fare is a new contract within the overall service contract, changing a fare without consent can be construed as a breach of contract. Something for the legal department to consider.

Another issue that comes up is driving strategy, where certain drivers want to work a specific area, and the trip upgrade can take them away from their working zone comfort, for instance, working near a convention center that will likely bring more rides to the airport.

Finally, the worst feature of a trip upgrade, drivers can not cancel it. Once the feature is in the app, it's there to stay and cannot be canceled. So once you get a trip upgrade, you can not stop it and have to take it.


Like every new feature, it will take time to break it in completely and work out the kinks. However, like any new feature, it has to be given time to work, make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Only through accepting change and going through the process will Uber and the drivers evolve and develop new insights and offer a better service.

Another issue is what is called holistic upgrading, where a global view of updates is taken into account, which means, don't look a trip upgrade as an individual feature, factor it in with the other features such as directional filter and guarantee boosts. When working together, most features make sense.