When you call for transportation in a crowded area (Fig. 1), it’s often unclear both:
1) For you, the pedestrian, which of the numerous indistinguishable late model imported silver cars is picking you up
2) For the driver, which of the many pedestrians is actually the one who summoned that specific car.
Fig 1: The current state of affairs. The car driver (left) is trying to find the correct passenger out of the large crowd (right). The passenger would also be trying to distinguish the correct car from numerous others (in order to simplify things, only one car is shown here).
One obvious suggestion for finding the correct passenger would be to look for a person holding out their cell phone. But in a crowded situation, this still may be the incorrect person.
It’s also easy for a passenger to look at the car’s license plate to identify it, but this can be difficult at night, in crowded situations, or when the car isn’t extremely close by.
Fig 2: Several of these people may have their phones out and be waiting for a cab, so it’s still a confusing situation.
Both Lyft and Uber have lighted signs that drivers may choose to display. Presumably the total cost for such a device is approximately the same as the cost of a fancy cup of coffee.
So what we do (see Figure 3) is:
1) The driver picks a specific set of “favorite colors” for their logo. Normally, the logo remains the default color, but when it’s time for a pickup, the logo quickly blinks, cycling between their chosen favorite colors. In the example below, the driver has picked “green and white” as their specific colors.
2) The passenger’s app is set to also blink in these same colors. So the passenger can say “aha, I’m looking for a car that will have a green / white blinking logo.”
3) When this car gets nearby, the passenger can easily hold up their blinking phone and face it toward the driver.
3) The driver will now easily notice the blinking green / white phone in the crowd, and can be confident that they have located the correct pickup spot.
Fig 3: The blinking phone makes it easy to pick out the correct passenger from the crowd. Likewise, the passenger can easily spot the driver’s green/white logo at a distance.
PROS: Streamlines the ride-sharing pickup process in crowded areas.
CONS: The blinking screens will undoubtedly be incredibly annoying when 50 people are all waiting for rides after a major event.