The in-app messaging service from Uber is their attempt at stopping drivers honking their horns to get your attention as they wait at the pickup. The anonymous SMS asking you where you were was never very good so Uber introduced Pickup Messages. Their way of allowing you to send a message on the Uber app.
Pickup Messages was introduced back in 2017 as a way for riders to communicate with drivers and vice versa. It includes a mechanism to prevent spam or inappropriate communications and is focused purely on getting rider to their car in the shortest time.
The system uses a relay that helps manage communications and keep phone numbers anonymous. A rider can send a message that will be read aloud to the driver to avoid distractions. The driver has a quick thumbs up response to acknowledge changes or messages or a full chat feature they can use for more involved communication.
The original idea for Pickup Messages was apparently to help in countries where Uber wanted a presence but where SMS was either expensive or not reliably available. Building it into the app also saves costs for the driver as they don’t count towards free SMS or cost per message.
Sending the driver a message on the Uber app
If you haven’t sent a message on the Uber app before, it is very straightforward. Once you have ordered a pickup, the chat feature becomes available. The system creates a relay between you and the driver keeping both phone numbers private and limiting messaging between the two to ride subjects only.
- Select your driver’s name in the Uber app.
- Select Contact at the bottom of the window.
- Select Message and type in your message.
- Select Send once done.
When you begin a message, you have two options, use ‘Any Pickup Notes’ or type your own messages. The Any Pickup Notes section has some boilerplate messages that cover most situations but the free text option allows you to tailor your message specifically to the situation.
Depending on the driver and what they are doing at the time, they may respond with a simple thumbs up to acknowledge your message, reply with a more detailed acknowledgement or not reply at all. Drivers are encouraged to not lose focus on the road so if they don’t reply, it’s nothing personal.
If they are stuck in traffic or are waiting at the pickup point, they will likely reply.
There is another messaging option with Uber and that is for if you leave something in the car. Most of us have done it and will likely do it again. You’re in a hurry, put something down to do something else and jump out of the car onto your next destination. The driver is as busy as you are so doesn’t check the seat for anything you left behind.
Message Uber about a lost item
If your ride is over and has been paid for, you won’t have the Pickup Messages feature available. Instead, you have to visit the Uber website and contact the driver indirectly about a lost item.
- Visit this page on the Uber website and sign in.
- Select the trip where you left your item in the car from the list in the center.
- Leave a contact number for the driver to call you.
- Select Submit.
Depending on what your driver is doing at the time they may respond instantly or take a little while. They should contact you within 24 to 48 hours and arrange for you to collect your item.
If you don’t hear from them, there is an appeals process you can start from the My Trips part of the Uber app. Select the Feedback option for the trip you were on when you left the item and select ‘I lost an item’. Fill in the form and await a response.
Uber’s Pickup Messages is actually pretty smart. Called Michelangelo, it’s part SMS relay and part smart program that uses Neuro Linguistic Programming to automatically generate a response for the driver.
Once a message is sent, it is received by the system and sent on to Michelangelo. The program then encodes the message, tries to understand what is being said, offers a prediction score on what it thinks the message is about and then forwards it on to another service.
That service assesses the most likely response to that message and sends the message and most likely response(s) to the driver. The driver can then one-tap select the most appropriate. All designed to keep driver distractions to a minimum. Neat huh?