As cab-hailing giant Uber gets ready to open up its vehicles for regular travel with most States expected to ease lockdown restrictions, it has announced several safety measures for riders and drivers, including the possibility of barring either from the platform for non-compliance.
Among the announcements is a "Go Online Checklist" for both riders and drivers, a mandatory mask policy for riders and drivers, pre-trip mask verification selfies for drivers, an updated post-trip feedback mechanism and a cancellation policy.
"We don't really speak about what its take for them to be deactivated, what exactly it means in terms of when they can come back because we want our guidelines and policies to be simple for riders and drivers, we want to tell them at every point you have to wear masks and have to follow these guidelines. We will keep it in education mode and remind them, but if constantly we see violation from rider or driver, that's when we will take slightly stronger action and potentially take them off the platform," said Sachin Kansal, Global Senior Director of Product Management at Uber.
Importantly, drivers and riders can cancel trips if they feel unsafe, including if a user is not wearing a mask or face cover.
Kansal clarified that the new measures work on self certification, and there is no course of action in case a rider or driver think the other may be infected. However, if someone using an Uber actually tests positive for Covid-19, and the the government asks Uber through the right channels about which trips they were on, the company will "definitely partner and provide them that information," he added.
Drivers have been advised to use three-ply face masks, and discard them after a single day's use. Uber has acquired 3 million masks to provide to its drivers, and the drivers are also free to use their own, as long as they comply with the requirement of keeping their face covered at all times.
Uber had also piloted using a plastic sheet to isolate the driver's seat for its UberMedic service, which it started a few weeks ago to ferry healthcare workers in partnership with hospitals across the country. The separators are not going to be used in all cabs that start plying, as of now, Kansal said,
"Health and safety is an evolving subject, and plastic separators are one aspect of it. It is a pilot. We continue to get feedback from both riders and drivers. Drivers are welcome to install them but from Uber's perspective thee is no broad policy to that effect," he added.
The Go Online checklist is a list of things that both riders and drivers will have to confirm confirm on the app, which includes safety measures and wearing a face mask.
Before drivers are able to start accepting trips, they will be asked to take a selfie with a mask on. Uber will use a camera selfie with the software being able to tell if the driver is wearing a mask.
To allow for space between the driver and rider during an Uber ride, Uber has advised riders not to sit in the front seat. Only two riders will be allowed in a car and they will have to sit in the rear seat, and the drivers have been advise to sanitise the most touched places in the car after each trip.
Uber had resumed services in the green and orange zones on May 4, and most State governments are expected to allow cabs to ply in red zones as well, in accordance with the Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines on Sunday.