Cab company Uber is retooling its app and services to help stop spread the Covid-19 as the Indian economy gears for the reopening. The company has launched a myriad of measures including masks, number of passengers and sanitisation to keep the drivers and riders safe.
Under the fourth phase of lockdown starting Monday, states and union territories have been given the power decide on the containment, buffer, red, orange and green zones, after taking into consideration the parameters shared by the health ministry. Depending on the states’ decision, ride-hailing platforms like Uber and Ola will resume services in various locations and follow the standard operating procedures (SOPs).
“Starting today, drivers and riders will have to wear face masks if they are using Uber in India and in most other countries where Uber operates,” said Uber Global Senior Director Product Management Sachin Kansal, as he announced slew of measures his company has taken under COVID-19 specific safety features and policies.
“Over the last two months, our global tech and safety product teams have been hard at work building a new, product experience for riders and drivers. Today, as India eases its lockdown, it’s important we take all necessary precautions to help keep ourselves safe and to make the next trip safer for all,” Kansal said.
These new features and policies have been rolled out globally, and will be enhanced and revised as needed to ensure a safer experience for all, he added.
Before they go online on the platform, driver-partners will be asked to confirm – via a new Go Online Checklist – that they’ve taken certain safety measures and are wearing a face mask. They will also have to upload a selfie wearing a face mask, and Uber’s new technology will verify the identity of the driver.
A similar checklist has been built for riders and before every trip, the rider will have to confirm that they’ve taken precautions like wearing a face mask, and washing or sanitising their hands.
Kansal said new options for feedback have also been added for both rider and driver to inform the company if the other party was not wearing a mask or face cover.
He also said that cancelation policy have also been updated to allow drivers and riders to cancel trips if they don’t feel safe, including if the person operating or entering the vehicle does not wear a mask and if someone removes a mask partway through the trip
To allow for space between the driver and rider during a ride, Uber is advising riders not to sit in the front seat, and only two riders will be allowed in the rear seat of the car.
The company said it is working with global and local public health authorities, and has compiled safety tips and recommendations that will be sent to all riders and drivers.
Both Uber and Ola had suspended operations after the government announced a nationwide lockdown from March 23 to contain the spread of COVID-19.
After 40 days of lockdown, some relaxations were provided in the third phase of the lockdown from May 4, including allowing cab services to operate with conditions in locations that have very few or no confirmed cases reported (orange and green zones).
Uber had announced starting operations in 25 cities including Jamshedpur, Kochi, Cuttack and Guwahati (green zone) as well as locations like Amritsar, Rohtak, Gurugram and Visakhapatnam (orange zone) in the third phase of the lockdown. It has not yet announced the additional cities, where it will resume operations.
The Home Affairs Ministry, on Sunday, said inter-state movement of passenger vehicles and buses with mutual consent of the states and union territories involved would be permitted with restrictions (except in containment zones). It also allowed intra-state movement of passenger vehicles and buses, as decided by the states and union territories.
It also said standard operating procedures (SOPs) for movement of people will continue to operate.
The demand and supply had remained low in the first few days after these platforms had resumed services. According to industry executives, demand was low across various cities as people were stepping out only for essential travel, while the number of vehicles on the road was also limited as a fraction of drivers logged onto work.