Services like Uber and Lyft have made catching a ride home from the local bar or to the airport easier than ever. But a growing number of drivers are reporting instances of random people hopping into their vehicle thinking it’s the ride they just ordered, leading representatives from Uber and Lyft to offer words of caution for both drivers and passengers.
Uber currently employs more than 1.5 million drivers, while Lyft has about 700,000. The drivers use their personal vehicles to transport passengers, so any car can be mistaken for a ride. Once a rider requests a pickup via the Uber or Lyft mobile app, they are sent the details, including the car’s license plate number, make and model, and to confirm the driver’s name.
But as The Wall Street Journal reported, many customers are hopping into random cars without checking any of those stats, with drivers in newer-model hatchbacks, sedans and midlevel SUVs appearing most at risk. This poses a potential danger to both parties.
Simran Jeet Singh, a religion professor who lives in New York City, said he was waiting for his wife and daughter outside their building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side when an older couple got in the back seat.
“I said, ‘I’m not an Uber driver,’ and they were really confused,” the 32-year-old Singh recalled. “Then, the woman said, ‘Well, we really need to go here, can you take us anyway? We’ll pay you.”
Brooke Anderson, a spokeswoman for Uber, advised passengers that getting into cars with drivers that haven’t been vetted by the company could be dangerous and had some advice for non-Uber drivers who encounter would-be customers: “Just politely let the passenger know that you’re not with Uber.”
A few cities have started using lighted placards — which drivers attach to their windshields — that change colors to match the display in the passenger’s app, making it easier to identify which ride is theirs on a crowded street. Both companies are providing the devices to drivers free of charge.