Uber is upgrading its app to make it “an OS for everyday life” for urban dwellers
The big picture: Uber faces growing competition in ride-hailing, scooters, and food delivery, so it’s trying to become the one-stop shop for all those needs. The company hopes that by nailing all three it can survive the current financial and legal pressures that threaten its profitability, such as building a fleet of self-driving fleet and protecting the safety of Uber passengers.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wants his company to become the “Amazon of transportation.” To that end, it is now fusing its apps into one that will supposedly make life easier for heavy users who depend on these services for their day-to-day life. The company is also adding several safety features and a way to plan trips that use public transportation and alternatives like bikes and scooters.
The updates were announced at an event in San Francisco, where the company explained how they will make it your go-to app for getting around and ordering food. The new experience is currently going through a test phase in hundreds of cities.
The company is trying to figure out how to best organize the home screen, so it will essentially present users with two versions — one where opening the app skips the map preview and shows you the options of getting a ride and ordering food side-by side, as well as a version that is closer to the current design with added tabs at the bottom.
A big emphasis of the new app, however, is on passenger safety. Lately, Uber has been under fire for its shortcomings in that department, and people who were sexually assaulted have sued them for millions of dollars in damages. The company says the new safety features will help riders get in the right car and report issues more easily than before.
To ensure you are picked up by the correct driver, you can now opt in to receive a PIN number that needs to be entered by the driver before they can start the ride. Uber is also developing a way to use ultrasound to reduce this friction, which should be ready to roll out sometime in the coming months. The company will also notify you when you’re about to be dropped off near a bike lane where accidents can happen when exiting the car.
Another interesting addition to the app is the ability to send a text message to emergency services dispatchers in countries where this is supported. The message will include all the relevant details about the vehicle model, plate number, and location. You’ll be able to report any incidents in your trip while still in the car and Uber’s safety team will follow up afterwards.
Drivers will also be required to verify their identity through an updated “Real-Time ID Check” where they’ll have to “perform a random series of basic movements—blinking, smiling and/or turning their head—to add another layer of security.”
In a first for Uber and the ride-sharing industry in general, the company is integrating a trip planner that includes public transportation. The new transit feature is available in Denver, Boston, Chicago, London, Sydney, Paris, Mexico City and San Francisco, but the company plans to expand that as quickly as possible. For now you only get access to scheduling and fare information, but Uber is testing an in-app ticketing feature for Denver and forging partnerships with transit agencies around the world, so it won’t be long before you can use that in more cities.
For those of you who use Uber’s Jump electric bikes and scooters, you’ll soon be able to see them on the map alongside Lime’s alternatives. The change will display the location of Jump bikes and scooters in 28 cities around the world and 12 US cities in the case of Lime’s scooters. Uber is also investing on a network of battery-swapping kiosks that will appear in select cities by the end of the year.
The Uber Rewards program is also getting an overhaul. Loyal customers who regularly use two of the three services provided by the company provides will get free Uber Eats deliveries for a limited time. The company says this will complement Ride Pass and Eats Pass, which allow you to pay a flat monthly fee and thus save money if you’re a frequent user.
Finally, the company touted 100 million active customers and 4 million drivers and delivery partners around the world. And while most of the new features target consumers, there are a few updates for drivers and couriers as well. The company is adding an earnings estimator, a demand heatmap, and the ability to filter trip requests in the direction of their choice.