Is it safe to take an Uber ride amid coronavirus outbreak?

Uber rolls out enhanced safety measures amid Covid-19 outbreak As governments across the region begin to ease off lockdown and workplaces slowly resume operations, Uber is taking unprecedented safety measures to help everyone who uses its app to stay safe and healthy. Pavan Vaish, Head of Central Operations, South Asia, for Uber,  sat down with Ada Derana Biz for an exclusive interview where he spoke about the safety initiatives that have been announced by Uber in light of Covid-19 and about its new safety features for both rider and drivers. Below are excerpts of the interview: Q: Given that the Covid-19 global pandemic has affected Uber’s operations on a global scale, what preventive measures has Uber implemented?  The pandemic has indeed affected our operations and how people travel during these challenging times. Our biggest concern remains the health and safety of the community we serve, including our drivers and riders and we are committed to keeping our communities safe by setting the highest possible safety standards. With the drive to step up safety and hygiene standards, we at Uber procured and distributed LKR 10 million worth of safety supplies such as masks and sanitizers, free of cost to our driver partners. We also partnered with Dettol to distribute disinfectants to our driver partners in order to sanitize vehicles before every trip, along with the display of in-car education placards with safety advisories for riders and drivers. Our tech and safety teams have been working overtime to build a new product experience to help protect everyone, every time you use Uber. We have made it mandatory for both drivers and riders to wear masks – permitting only two passengers in cars and tuks, besides the driver partner. In order to ensure this, we recently launched a range of COVID-19 related safety features – the Rider Go Online Checklist, Driver Go Online Checklist, Mask Verification for drivers, options for feedback including if a rider or driver is not wearing a mask or face cover and an updated cancellation policy.  These checklists make sure that both riders and drivers are wearing face masks and adhere to guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO advisory and recommendations are specifically customised for ridesharing and we’ve already begun sharing this information with users globally. We’ll now leverage the tips to educate riders and drivers when we learn of unsafe behaviour. Q: How do these new safety features work?  Before a trip, riders will be asked to complete the Rider Go Online Checklist. Riders are asked to confirm that they have completed key safety steps recommended by the WHO, such as washing hands and wearing a face mask. They must also agree to sit in the rear seat and open windows for ventilation. Meanwhile, driver partners will be asked to complete the Driver Go Online Checklist and pass Uber’s Mask Verification process to confirm that they are wearing a mask. Drivers will be asked to take a selfie with the mask on, which will be verified through the Uber Driver App. If a driver partner is not wearing a mask, he/she will not be able to go online until verified. This also allows riders to be notified that the driver is wearing a mask when the driver is en route. We understand that the community is concerned about their health and safety, which is why we continue to innovate, adapt and implement new measures as the pandemic evolves, to provide riders and drivers with peace of mind when using Uber. Q: Why are masks made mandatory for both drivers and riders? When the pandemic first hit, it was important for us to evaluate and understand the situation that arose. We learnt from the experts and were made aware of the importance of prevention before cure, and the impact of adhering to the health guidelines from experts like the World Health Organisation. The WHO and local public health authorities have been advising the community to wear a face mask or face cover in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country. This practice takes place not just in Sri Lanka, but across the world as well. In keeping with expert advice, we have made wearing masks a mandatory policy. We also gained feedback from our riders and drivers claiming that they feel more comfortable and safe when everyone in the vehicle is taking precautions. Q: Is the Mask Verification same as Uber’s Real Time ID Check? How will this feature be able to verify that a driver matches with their account if their face is covered?  These are two different technology enabled verification processes and both are live on our platform. The Real Time ID Check prompts the driver to take a selfie to verify their account, before requesting them to take a selfie with the mask on. The technology and process behind the Mask Verification is different, since our mask detection system was built for object recognition and is only able to assess the presence of a mask. Unlike Real Time ID check, the Mask verification does not compare mask selfies to previous photos of the driver. Mask Verification follows Real time ID checks. Q: How can Uber ensure that riders and drivers wear masks and follow your policy at all times?  Accountability is the key and it goes both ways. That’s why we are encouraging drivers to cancel trips without penalty if they don’t feel safe, including if the rider isn’t wearing a mask. Similarly, if a driver shows up without a mask on, the rider can cancel the trip without penalty too, and report the issue to us via the app. Uber’s two-way feedback system has long helped ensure both riders and drivers uphold certain standards by requiring feedback on issues like vehicle quality, navigation, and speeding. Now, we are adding new options for feedback, such as those related to health and safety concerns. Drivers and riders who repeatedly violate mask policies risk losing access to the Uber app. Q: As we enter a ‘new normal’, what does the future of rideshare look like?  As our communities adapt to the new normal, I would like to say that we are cautiously optimistic. We are seeing green shoots of recovery in Sri Lanka as the impact of the pandemic in Sri Lanka weakens. It is encouraging to see the discipline of the local community and the collective effort to rise above this situation as a whole. As things get back to normal, we will continue taking the right approach to ensure the safety of the community and encourage our consumers to experience the world again – with Uber as a part of it.

The post Is it safe to take an Uber ride amid coronavirus outbreak? appeared first on Adaderana Biz English | Sri Lanka Business News.

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