Uber has succeeded in pulling customers away from yellow taxis partly by stripping away the less pleasant parts of the taxi-riding experience: the sagged-out blue vinyl seat, the scuffed-up plastic partition, the evil invention known as Taxi TV. But a screen in the backseat is apparently just too hard to resist, and Uber yesterday announced that it’ll soon be feeding you video, news, and more through its app.
In a blog post on Tuesday, Uber announced the launch of Trip Experiences, an addition to its app that allows companies to integrate their apps into the Uber system, delivering content that’s meted out in trip-length doses — essentially feeding a bunch of stuff your phone already does through Uber’s own portal. A few sample ideas that may be offered: short playlists timed to the length of a ride, a five-minute news briefing, a rundown of things to do near your destination. Uber’s also including the show-off-y ability to adjust your smart thermostat, so you can switch on the A/C or the heat on your way home.
You have the option to opt in or out of the service on the app (or, y’know, put your phone back in your pocket). Because this is all coming from sources other than Uber itself, the company can discourage but not ban developers from spamming its customers, and those companies will be allowed to send app notifications to riders at the end of their ride and take data every 30 seconds. “Uber is trying to walk that fine line of monetizing their growing user base while not alienating that user base,” said Paul Sweeney, analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. Presumably, each rider’s choices will be added to Uber’s growing content file on him or her, and deployed in its future world-domination plans.
In related news, Taxi TV may, blessedly, soon be dead.