Uber is taking its ride-hailing app down a new road in an effort to make it smarter, simpler and more fun to use.
The redesigned app also will seek to mine personal information stored on smartphones in a change that could raise privacy concerns, even though it will be up to individual users to let Uber peer into their calendars and address books.
The change represents the biggest overhaul in four years to Uber Technologies Inc.'s popular app, which is used by millions of people to summon cars in more than 450 cities around the world for rides that are usually cheaper than traditional taxis.
As part of the new look, Uber will spell out more clearly how long it will take and how much it will cost to reach a destination in different types of available cars. The app will also recommend places to be picked up in congested areas.
The reprogrammed app also will study a rider’s traveling history and list frequently ordered destinations as “shortcuts.”
In another time-saving move that will test how much users trust the San Francisco-based company with their personal information, users will be able to give the app access to their calendars so addresses listed in an entry can automatically appear in the Uber app near the time of the appointment. Uber plans to introduce this option by next month.
Uber says it doesn’t expect privacy objections because users will have to agree to allow the app to scan their calendars and address books. And people whose locations are being sought through the new address-book feature will be able to decide whether they want to share the information.
The redesigned app also will offer features from other services that riders might enjoy during the trip. The additions include the ability to check out restaurant reviews through Yelp, send messages through Snapchat and listen to music on Pandora.