Uber will require that drivers and riders wear face masks or face coverings when using the platform in certain countries, including the U.S. The requirement is part of a new policy that Uber is preparing in order to restart its ride-hailing service during the coronavirus pandemic.
Executives approved the new policy, which was first reported by CNN Business, this past week. It is expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks. In addition, CNN Business reported that Uber was working on developing technology that could detect if drivers are wearing face masks or coverings before they start accepting trips. It is also looking at ways of verifying that riders have face masks or coverings, but gave no indication of what that would entail.
The company already operates face verification technology to confirm its drivers’ identities.
“As countries reopen, Uber is focused on safety and proceeding with caution. Today, we continue to ask riders to stay home if they can, while shipping safety supplies to drivers who are providing essential trips,” Uber told CNN Business in a statement. “At the same time, our teams are preparing for the next phase of recovery, where we will all have a role to play.”
Uber said it would directly inform users of when it would implement this new policy.
According to USA Today, Uber currently suggests that all drivers and riders wear face masks but it does not require them to do so. Uber has ordered “tens of millions” of face masks for its drivers and delivery people worldwide in recent weeks and began shipping masks to drivers in the cities hardest hit by the pandemic, such as New York City, at the beginning of April. It also shipped disinfecting spray for cars.
Uber’s core ride-hailing business has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, which has resulted in many countries locking down their citizens. In a call with investors in mid-March, which seems like years ago, company CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said ride volume had gone down by as much as 60 to 70 per cent in cities severely impacted by the pandemic, like Seattle. Recently, the Information reported that total gross bookings had fallen 80 per cent compared to last year.
During these times, Uber has reportedly seen use of Uber Eats, its meal delivery service, increase by 70 per cent. It has also launched two new services, Uber Connect and Uber Direct. Uber Direct delivers items from pharmacies and pet stores, while Uber Connect lets users send small, small-day packages to one another.
Nonetheless, that doesn’t seem to have been enough to insulate it from the economic effects of the pandemic. This week, the Information reported that Uber was discussing plans to lay off around 20 per cent of its employees.
Per CNN, once Uber’s new policy is in place, drivers and delivery workers will be required to wear a face mask or covering, such as a bandana, regardless of whether they received a mask from the company.