May 13, 2020 - Technology

Uber rolls out coronavirus-related safety policies

Illustration of a cell phone wearing a medical mask

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As some states and cities begin to ease shelter-in-place restrictions, Uber is introducing a slew of measures intended to make driver and passengers feel safer about resuming rides, including making face coverings mandatory.

Why it matters: Uber's ride-hailing business took an 80% hit year-over-year in April as the coronavirus pandemic forced many to stay home.

What they're saying: "What we are preparing for is the new normal," Uber director of product management Sachin Kansal said during a press call. "People will have new expectations of us."

"Your Second First Trip" is the slogan Uber is using for the new safety measures it announced Wednesday, including:

  • Mandatory face coverings or masks for both drivers and riders starting Monday, May 18. Drivers will be asked to take a photo to confirm they are wearing one. While riders will only have to tap a button in the app to say they are, the company is not ruling out eventually requiring them to submit photo evidence as well.
  • Riders will be able to alert Uber via the app or cancel a trip if their driver is not wearing a mask or takes it off during the ride, and vice versa.
  • Uber is allocating $50 million to purchasing and distributing safety supplies to drivers. The company has also partnered with Clorox and Unilever to start distributing cleaning supplies in select cities.
  • The company is advising riders to no longer sit in the passenger seat of cars in the interest of social distancing and asks that they roll down windows whenever possible during a ride.
  • Uber is also adding educational videos and instructions to the version of its app used by drivers to help them follow proper safety guidelines.

The big picture: The virus crisis has been challenging for the company. While its food delivery business is seeing a huge surge in demand, the severe dip in Uber's overall business may not recover for a long time, and it has faced criticism for not providing sufficient resources or protections to drivers.

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