How Uber Plans To Keep Riders, Drivers Safe As It Returns Amid COVID-19

Uber said it has been consulting health organisations, drivers and riders to frame a measures to allow people to commute safely amid the coronavirus crisis.

Uber also announced the launch of a new service to let people send packages within cities.

New Delhi:

Uber will need drivers, delivery workers and riders to wear face masks and require that vehicles are sanitised after every ride as the company returns to Indian roads amid easing restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

"We are creating a new experience for a new normal. As lockdowns are lifted and as people start relying on Uber again to go wherever they want to, their expectations are much higher when it comes to safety and health," Uber's Global Head for Safety Sachin Kansal told NDTV.

The centre on Sunday did not name ride-hailing services such as Ola and Uber in the new list of prohibited activities under the fourth phase of the nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, indicating that the decision will be left states to allow cabs on their roads.

Uber said it has been consulting health organisations, drivers and riders to frame a comeback plan and design measures to allow people to commute safely.

"Starting today, both drivers and riders will have to wear face masks to be on the platform. Second, we have invested a significant amount of capital in acquiring these safety supplies. So for India specifically, we have acquired more than 3 million masks, more than 1.2 million shower caps for Uber Moto customers as well as disinfectants and sanitisers. And the third leg is all the changes we are making in the app itself - both on the rider and the driver side. They will be asked to go through a checklist and we will make sure they conform to the checklist," Mr Kansal said.

"For example our drivers will need to upload a selfie wearing a mask and our technology will be able to detect if they are wearing a mask before going online. There are also several checks and balances in the process. So if a rider notices that a driver is not wearing a mask, they will be able to cancel, they will be able to provide us feedback and we will be able to act on that feedback," he added.

Repeated failure to comply with the requirement can lead to account deactivation for both riders and drivers, the executive said.

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"We are requiring the drivers to sanitise their vehicles after every single trip. We've been working with organisations such as the World Health Organization as well as several other public health authorities to understand from them. We have learned that it is important for them to clean the highly touched surfaces. For example, the door handles, the seat belt buckles and so on. So we have been educating drivers on how to sanitize their car," he said.

"We've also been handing out cleaning kits and health and safety kits for them. In about 14 cities, we have 90 distribution centres," Mr Kansal added.

The company also announced the launch of a new service to allow people send packages to their relatives, friends and contacts within cities.

"We've started a service called Uber Connect which we recently launched in India where customers can actually send those packages using Uber over to their loved ones," he said.

Uber's ride-hailing service, which is available in more than 900 cities worldwide, is seeing a gradual increase in ridership in May from pandemic-induced lows in April, the company said earlier this month.