Uber thinks people will want to play a mobile game that simulates what it’s like being an Uber driver.
The controversial and heavily criticized ridesharing service on Thursday released UberDRIVE, an app that takes people through the streets of San Francisco, requiring them to point out landmarks, accept trip requests, and take passengers through “efficient routes” in an effort to score points.
But for whom was this game designed? Uber drivers should theoretically already know how to be drivers, and people who aren’t drivers aren’t likely to be swayed by a cartoonish mobile game.
The game appears to double as a weird recruitment system; there are links to sign up to become an Uber driver right in the game. The company does not say whether you have to score a certain number of points before becoming a driver.
This is how Uber attempted to explain the game in its blog post.
UberDRIVE showcases a day in the life of an Uber driver-partner. Players help riders get from A to B and earn high scores for identifying the safest and most efficient routes to their destinations.
UberDRIVE was designed as a fun and engaging resource for our driver-partners to hone their navigation skills if they choose to…
Throughout the gameplay experience, we’ve integrated educational elements to help enhance city knowledge. There are fun facts for the most important landmarks in the city and a simple trivia mode where riders quiz players to point out certain destinations on the map.
The whole idea of an Uber “game” is a bit bizarre. It’s as if Uber didn’t know how to properly train its drivers, so it created a rather condescending game and blog post to encourage them to get to know the city better.
What makes the strategy all the more puzzling is that Uber has real driver issues to address. Its drivers have robbed riders’ homes, been accused of sexual assault, and refused rides for people with disabilities because Uber refuses to support accessible travel. Given all of that, creating an app just for fun doesn’t seem like a very productive use of the company’s time.
The Uber game is rolling out now for iOS in the U.S. App Store. The only “playable city” so far is San Francisco.
Now everyone can experience what it’s like to be a contract worker in the so-called “sharing economy” without health benefits, a set salary, or the prospect of making enough money to survive.
Photo via gazeronly/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)