What is the worst-smelling ride you’ve ever accepted?

Nearly everyone has a story about how bad a cab, rental car, or rideshare they’ve ridden in has smelled. It’s practically a rite of passage. So, why is this such a common thing for people to bond over? It is because shared spaces are ripe breeding grounds for all sorts of offending smells, from overpowering cologne to cigarettes to body odor.

Aryballe recently did a survey to understand how people react to bad-smelling vehicles and if their reaction would change based on the type of odor and the situation. We asked respondents that have used rideshare apps about their experiences, and 75% report having been dissatisfied with the smell on at least one occasion.

The surprising piece we learned was that despite the odors, 75% of riders took the ride and did not report the smell to the driver or company. Riders either did not know reporting the smell was an option, were too lazy to follow through and/or didn’t think their report would change things or wanted to avoid the awkwardness of telling someone their car smelled. It is interesting to note, that when dealing with other people, riders were very aware of the subjectivity of smell. Respondents shared, “It’s embarrassing to tell a driver that his/her car does not smell good. It is very subjective, too.” And, “I have a pretty sensitive nose.”

The subjectivity of smell is exactly why rental car companies, autonomous vehicle rideshares, and even rideshare drivers themselves need an objective, reliable way to ensure their cars are up to rider standards. Smell has a significant impact on brand perception, but it is often overlooked. Aryballe solutions deliver consistent data that can be analyzed to gain insights for all users—from experienced data scientists to operators—that require fast answers. We help organizations take the human limitations out of the equation.

As autonomous vehicles become more common, we can only expect to see more rideshare companies employ them. The autonomous vehicle arena is where we see a shift in what riders are willing to tolerate in regard to odors. When there isn’t a third-party driver involved more than 83% of respondents would request another vehicle if the car assigned to them had a malodor. And 64% of respondents would not get in an autonomous vehicle that had a mechanical malodor (eg. burning rubber, anti-freeze, etc.). But, if it was a nuisance odor (a smell related to a previous passenger), 56% would get in the car.

While these results certainly confirm what we expected (we’ve all had to deal with malodors and very few of us are willing to create an awkward situation by calling it out), it’s encouraging to know there are solutions available now that can decipher between nuisance and mechanical odors and help drivers and car companies ensure their vehicles positively impact their brand.