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Uber now has a ‘silence’ option, but is this really a good thing?

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Hollie Richardson
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Uber silence: Sophia Loren takes a quiet cab

Uber riders can now cut out the small talk with drivers, but many people aren’t comfortable with this…

Where would we be without Uber in 2019, eh? (I don’t know about you, but I’d probably still be stuck in Streatham right now, putting together a public transport strategy to, hopefully one day, get me back to Hackney.)

In London alone, Uber has around 45,000 drivers and an estimated 3.5 million people use the app. It’s often the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to get around – so, why wouldn’t we use it?

Well, taxi apps are not without their controversies, as we well know.

Let’s not forget that Uber has been under a 15-month probation after TfL found the firm was not equipped to hold a private hire vehicles operator licence. And, only very recently, one woman added to growing safety concerns after sharing her terrifying experience in a Lyft cab that left her fearing for her life. The apps have also hit the black cab industry and taxi ranks pretty badly and, of course, they contribute to the dangerous air pollution levels in cities.

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Now, the latest Uber news has caused even more division.

Riders now have the option to select a “quiet preferred” option, which would ensure a silent ride.

To many, this is pleasing, as there are people who can become anxious making “small talk” with strangers, or simply find it tiring and unnecessary. Others are criticising Uber for debasing the drivers by literally silencing them at the touch of a button.

One Twitter user said: “Have to say I’ve had over chatty Uber drivers react badly when I’ve asked for quiet. As someone with anxiety it is a scary thing to do. And solo women often feel threatened in cabs. It’s sad but a reality that asking can be hard.”

Another agreed: “As a deaf woman, I really appreciate this. I always sit in the back and never have been able understand Uber drivers with heavy accents and because they are driving, I can’t lipread them.”

A third added: “Love this idea since I don’t like to talk but I think this will give me more anxiety… how much conversation is appropriate, and can we get quiet mode with have radio on mode - sometimes the long quiet rides are just creepy.”

A former Uber driver also explained why it’s a bad idea, writing: “Uber take, as a former driver: complaining about talkative drivers is gross. It’s a job, you’re doing it for hours every day if you’re full time. Humans need interaction. It’s fifteen minutes of chitchat for you, or a whole day of silence for them.”

Another rider said: “This definitely signals a low-point for human connection in the real world, IMO. If I don’t want to talk to my UBER driver, I just let him or her know. Always disclaim that it isn’t personal – just “in my head” after a long day and need some dead air to process.”

For now, the option is only available to Uber Black premium service users. It will be interesting to see if the backlash affects any future plans for a roll-out. 

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…