Uber for Flip-phone?

Are you able to get Uber or Lyft if you only have a flip phone?

This is an picture of a flip-phone with a rotary dial. It is not common, but here is the link:
From Hackaday, 2014. This phone does exist!

My older sister lives alone out of state and does not drive. She uses taxis about once a week but they are very expensive and somewhat unreliable. I have suggested she try using Uber which is available where she lives. I have offered to pay for her Uber account which Uber tells me is possible, My sister unfortunately can’t figure out how to put Uber on her flip phone Do you have any tutorial on how to do this? Fran, Burlington

Dear Fran:   It will be nice once the lockdown ends to get back to teaching our rideshare classes and we will be working on a video. This column began two years ago as a way to augment our classes and  expand upon the role of phones in transportation.

As you mention, many communities are now experiencing shortfalls in taxi service. That is leaving those who depend on them for trips, like your sister, high and dry. Not only are they expensive, they are also unreliable. Many taxi companies have ceased the call-in dispatch service, even though there are drivers with cars who wish to pick up passengers.

GPS to the Rescue

That’s where Uber and Lyft, the rideshare companies, become a fine option. But, summoning them does require a phone that can receive and send GPS (global positioning system) data. The “dispatch” takes place electronically instead of through a call-in center.

Since your sister is using a flip phone, it does not have GPS capability built in. She will not be able to call Uber or Lyft on her own, since the Uber or Lyft driver needs  geo-coordinates to know a physical address for pick-up. However, you could be a ride hero and place the call for her.

Location, Location

To do so, you need to know exactly (and I mean exactly) where she is locationally when she wants to be picked up…..say 123 Main Street, Janesville. The rideshare app will send your phone a text message indicating that a pickup is occurring, distant from your own location. You will receive a text messages once the trip is confirmed, and when the rideshare vehicle picks up your sister you can use its “breadcrumb” trail to track her trip in real time. That’s a service taxis can’t provide.

Lots of people book rideshare trips on behalf of family members. And, there are more formal entities like Lyft Concierge, Uber Assist, and GoGoGrandparent that do this too.  That said, it’s often a win-win when seniors get their own smartphones and learn how to use them- not just for rideshare but to stay more active and connected. Once they see the benefits and potential of the smartphone, many of them become eager learners. 

Hands-Free Enforcement?

Delivery driver says the phone is a lifeline …hands-free, seriously?

A picture of traffic where tag lines suggest people in the cars are talking on the phone, texting, and engaging in other distracting behaviors.
source: fdot.gov

Dear Ms. Smartphone: I saw your last post about using hands-free phones. For the last few years I have been doing food delivery and having a phone in the car is a necessity.  I keep it on my lap or next to me. This new law is going to cause me a lot of hardship and slow me down. They can’t enforce it anyway so what’s the big deal? R.D., Boston

Dear R.D.,

Food delivery must be taxing, and hopefully you will not be distracted by either your Big Gulp or  your smartphone!  I honestly think that our growing demand for home delivery plus the desire to be continuously connected shortens the time until autonomous vehicles. 

To Enforce or Not…

But, to answer your question, an officer could pull you over if they saw you on the phone, say they looked down from an overpass, or  pulled along-side you at a stop. For background, see the Florida image. But I agree: officers are going to be cautious about enforcement. The background is Whren v. United States (1996). The lesson: don’t drive erratically and get pulled over.

I used to think phones were not necessary in cars but I cede that opinion. Most of us have lost our way-finding skills, and traffic apps add value. They help us select the best route, anticipate bottlenecks and slowdowns, and provide voice-overs to navigate your crazy round-abouts in Boston.

Knoweth thy phone commands…

Drivers with newer cars and trucks will stream their phone through the car’s audio system. But here are some additional tips for those with older cars and phones.

Get acquainted with the voice commands on your phone. You may be able to place a call, or answer one, by using voice commands like Siri or Alexa.  It is a misnomer to think that these calls are distraction free, but they will, at least, help keep your eyes on the road.

Second, make sure the screen-lock is set functionally. Then you won’t have to touch the phone to wake-up it up, or worse, key in the password. The screen-lock settings are generally found under ‘general/display/auto-lock.’

And, Knoweth Not!

Finally, newer phone operating systems have a feature that detect motion in your vehicle and are supposed to automatically divert an incoming call to voicemail.  On the Iphone this feature is buried under accessibility. Full disclaimer: Dear Smartphone has not been able to set up this feature successfully and struggles to turn it off for good.

Hands-Free Necessary?

Hands-free an option for older phone and older car?

At 60 MPH it takes a car 369 feet to stop. This is longer than a football field. The graph shows stopping distances at lower speeds too.
The End Zone for Smartphones… Perception, Reaction and Stopping.

Dear Ms. Smartphone: I saw signs on the highway (in Mass) saying phones must now be hands-free. Is this really necessary or is this just another dumb law? I have an older phone and an older car and I don’t see the need for this myself. Omar, Georgetown

Dear Omar: Think about it this way: if you have surgery you hope that the doctors are not talking on cellular phones or reading the newspaper when they operate. They will be paying full attention to what they are doing. The National Safety Council reminds us that driving requires all of your attention and uses all of your senses. In both cases, there is a life at stake, your own. 

That said, so many drivers use smartphones while they drive. The AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index for 2018 found that about 52 percent of motorists had recently talked on a handheld cellphone, 41 percent had read a message and 32 percent had typed or sent a message. 

The Three Sins of Sims:

There are three ways that the smartphone can distract you in the car. The first is obvious: Manual distraction occurs when you need to reach for the phone, fumble with it, or press in numbers. Many states, like yours, have bans. Then there is visual distraction, like taking your eyes off the road so that you can read a text or type in a number. It goes hand-in-hand (pun intended) with manual distraction. Finally, there is cognitive distraction, which most drivers seem to attribute to the other drivers on the road, not to themselves.

Distraction 101

According to the NHTSA, phone conversations of any type increase reaction time and increase variations in speed, lane deviations, and steering wheel control.

When conversing on a mobile device, either hand held or hands free, drivers increase their risk of a crash two to four times. 

Drivers talking on hands-free cell phones miss visual cues critical to safety and navigation. Their divided attention leads them to miss exists, go through red lights and stop signs and ignore important navigational signage.

And a twist of the Wrist…

To be compliant with the new law, you will probably need to mount the phone on or near the dashboard, assuming there is no audio-connection.  Since you said you had an older phone and an older car, I’d be concerned that the phone may go-to-sleep while you drive and you might then need to wake it by typing in a password code. That would definitely take your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road, and ultimately your attention too. It violates the intention of this new law.