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:
https://hackaday.com/2014/06/16/the-rotary-cell-phone/
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. 

Dear Smartphone: Rideshare Safety

using phones for rideshare
Rideshare Pickup at SFO Airport- Phone TIme! source: Rideshare Connection

DEAR MS.SMARTPHONE: I COMMUTE INTO SF  AND I ALSO TAKE A LOT OF RIDESHARE TRIPS. THIS TIME OF YEAR THERE’S A LOT OF FOCUS ON DRIVING SOBER AND SAFELY. I’VE NOTICED THAT UBER AND LYFT DRIVERS SPEND A LOT OF TIME ON THEIR PHONE AND I SEE THEM CLICKING TO FIND NEW ROUTES, ADD AND DROP PASSENGERS, OR DO OTHER THINGS. IS IT MORE DANGEROUS TO TAKE A RIDESHARE BECAUSE THESE DRIVERS USE THEIR PHONES MORE? J.F. Fremont

Dear J.F: Phones, holidays, and cars all seem to roll together. That said, your question is a good one and I really don’t have an answer. I recently met with a researcher at the MIT Age Lab, and keeping eyes straight-ahead and glued to the road seems to be the benefit of having a hands-free, voice-activated car phone. But, that is compared with say holding a phone in your hand and also needing to take eyes off the road. I’ll re-post your question after I search around for more data on rideshare safety. Thanks for asking!

Dear Smartphone: Older People Do Rideshare?

Rideshare for Seniors

DEAR MS SMARTPHONE:  I AM POSTING FOR MY GRANDMA, ROSAE. SHE IS 81 AND QUITE HEALTHY. SHE LIVES ALONE IN A BIG SUBURB WHERE THERE IS NOT A LOT OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. I TELL HER THAT SHE NEEDS TO GET A NEW PHONE AND USE RIDESHARE TO TRAVEL AROUND. SHE IS RESISTANT TO THE IDEA. Granddaughter, Irvine

Dear Grandaughter: I commend you for taking charge and for helping out with your family. You did not mention whether or not your Grandma Rosae still drives. If she does, she could save a lot of money, up to $7,000 a year by no longer keeping a car, paying insurance, and doing vehicle maintenance. Meanwhile she could benefit by having a safer means of transportation, one that provides door-to-door service ( e.g., no need to find a parking space), and 24/7 availability. There is considerable research that shows that older people who keep more active and mobile also stay healthier. Email me if you want the references. In the interim, take a few rideshare trips with your Grandma, make her comfortable with the apps, and show her how convenient it can be.