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I Love Uber, Not Its Directionally Challenged Drivers

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Disclaimer: Long-time Uber passenger. Love the service. I just have a tiny issue.

Why is it when I get into an UberX car, the driver rarely knows which way to go? For those who have spent more than enough time being carted around by UberX, I can confidently say that you've likely found yourself in a navigational nightmare at least once (more so with a rideshare).

Uber has issues to juggle -- in Toronto, a large number of residents have sided with the revolutionary tech company, despite waves of taxi drivers illegally blocking lanes of downtown traffic (the Internet did have fun with it though).

Next month, new regulations will be introduced that may quell the taxi/Uber flames and hopefully put the headlines to rest. In Edmonton, Uber has suspended their service until insurance becomes available by the Alberta government -- which is said to take place in the summer.

If this isn't troubling enough for Uber, the suspension has actually brought about new competitors like TappCar. While in smaller cities such as Sudbury and North Bay, the Uber approach already has government staff and taxi drivers feeling the burn under their seats.

Needless to say, Uber has been taking on the heat quite well.

The issue, as many of my comrades on Twitter have also indicated, involves UberX drivers' experience with local streets and routes. This isn't a personal shot at the drivers -- I've only had gratifying conversations and exceptional service with nearly every single UberX driver.

The lack of route knowledge takes up more time, costs more money and makes it more of an instructional experience rather than an opportunity for the passenger to unwind.

However, many of us find that the lack of route knowledge takes up more time, costs more money and makes it more of an instructional experience rather than an opportunity for the passenger to unwind and "leave it to the driver."

Uber will typically suggest drivers to use their app's map guidance system; however at their discretion, drivers can also use Google Maps or the ol' noggin. Like most intelligent companies, Uber has since begun asking riders for their destination address prior to requesting a driver, which ties directly to their recent UberPool service.

This allows the destination address to be synced to the driver's Uber app. It's a smart idea, but in the grand scheme of things, the app isn't the most reliable for directions in comparison to Google Maps or to the street knowledge of an experienced driver.

Some UberX drivers live on the outskirts of the Greater Toronto Area and are not well-versed when it comes to directions south of Bloor Street. This is very apparent when entering into the downtown core, as practical route knowledge to skip traffic and beat the rush are minimal.

This begs the question of whether a street knowledge test should be required for Toronto UberX drivers.

The question isn't really that far-fetched. In London, all drivers of the city's famous black cabs have long been required to complete a test called "The Knowledge" -- a geographical test to ensure that drivers know the ways of the road and can suggest fastest routes without the use of technology.

Do you think UberX drivers should be required to complete a street knowledge test?

To provide a bit of background on how this is being dealt with elsewhere, let's take the taxi system in London for instance. Including Uber, there are now three different types of insured drivers: Private hire vehicles booked via taxi office, often called "minicabs;" Public hire taxis known as "black cabs," which can be hailed on the street; and then there's Uber (although insurance is still not fully available fleet-wide).

It wouldn't hurt to consider a compulsory basic route test in Canada, at least for metropolitan city streets. This month, Transportation for London approved the introduction of a "Knowledge-lite" test for minicabs and Uber drivers to ensure quality drivers are on the road, to improve traffic congestion, and to keep customers smiley-faced.

On the flip side, I am furthest from advocating taxi cabs -- as many can attest. Regardless of this, I will admit that many taxi drivers do have a level of knowledge of where to go and how to get there -- assuming they're not taking you on an extended joyride, of course. (At least Uber customer service logs the routes that drivers take you on!)

Do you think GPS guidance is adequate, or do you think UberX drivers should be required to complete a street knowledge test?

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