Uber is introducing an updated version of its colorful Beacon gadget, according to a filing with the Federal Communications Commission. It’s the Beacon 2.0.
The digital display is meant to sit on the car’s dashboard, and will glow a specific color that riders chose in the app to help them find the right car in crowded situations. The Beacon’s digital display also reminds riders to wear their seat belt, close car doors gently, and exit curbside. The original Beacon first rolled out in 2016.
Here’s how Uber describes it:
It’s a hardware device that lets you find your rider easier, through satellite and sensor technologies, and also through colors that sync with the rider’s app. In addition, Beacon features a screen that communicates with your rider and reminds them to wear their seat belt and exit curbside. The device pairs with your phone through Bluetooth and is designed to be installed on your car dashboard.
The device has a magnetic base that allows it to attach to the dash, and it connects to a car’s power outlet via a USB cable. The device can connect to a driver’s phone via Bluetooth, and will collect some data, such as GNSS, IMU, and barometer data to “improve driver and rider experiences, especially better accuracy of pickup and dropoff locations,” the company says.
Select Uber drivers will begin to receive the new Beacon starting in early November, according to Uber’s website. The device will be sent to drivers who are rated Platinum and Diamond in Uber Pro, the company’s driver rewards program. Only drivers who operate in Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC are eligible, but Uber plans to make the Beacon available in more cities soon.
“Building on the original generation of Beacon hardware, we’re excited to introduce this updated version to a handful of the communities we serve,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “We’re always looking for more ways to add convenience to the Uber experience.”
The original Beacon was an offshoot of Spot, a product pilot launched by Uber in Seattle in 2015. Spot was a long, thin LED light to attach to the inside of their windshields, which riders could control to better identify their drivers. Uber found that Spot reduced the need for riders and drivers to contact one another and lowered cancellation rates in tricky pickup locations.
Also, the first Beacon was in clear need of an update, given it was designed to look like Uber’s old “bit” logo that was dropped in late 2018. Now it more closely resembles the Amp devices used by Lyft drivers, with its dual-sided digital display.
Uber has been tweaking its main product, its app, in recent months in an effort to improve the seamlessness of pickups and drop-offs. The company recently introduced a unique, four-digit PIN verification system aimed at making sure riders don’t get into the wrong vehicle. If you opt in, you’ll need to say the PIN out loud to your driver before he or she can start the ride.
Uber is also developing a new technology that uses ultrasound waves to automatically verify you’re in the right car, no PIN needed. The rider’s phone will send this ultrasonic signal to the driver’s phone to automatically verify the unique PIN. The company has said that technology should be ready to roll before the end of 2019.