Uber launches chat feature for driver-rider communication

Uber riders won't have to give drivers access to their personal phone numbers anymore, thanks to a new update in the app. Uber launched an in-app chat feature to keep exchanges on the platform.

Uber riders won't have to give drivers access to their personal phone numbers anymore, thanks to a new update in the app. 

The rideshare company just announced a new in-app chat feature that will allow riders and drivers to communicate without leaving the platform. 

The feature will roll out globally to both riders and drivers over the next few weeks.

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Uber riders won't have to give drivers access to their personal phone numbers anymore, thanks to a new update in the app. The rideshare company just announced a new in-app chat feature that will allow riders and drivers to communicate without leaving the platform

Uber riders won't have to give drivers access to their personal phone numbers anymore, thanks to a new update in the app. The rideshare company just announced a new in-app chat feature that will allow riders and drivers to communicate without leaving the platform

UBER UNVEILS CHAT

When a driver wants to get in touch to locate a passenger or vice versa, all they have to do is select 'contact' and 'chat' in the Uber feed.

If a passenger contacts a driver, the message will be read out loud so the driver doesn't have to be distracted while driving.

Then the driver can acknowledge receiving the message with one tap on the app, which will send the passenger a 'thumbs up.'

 For now, the feature is aimed at helping users connect ahead of a pickup, but the company may roll it out in other ways as well.

An Uber spokesperson told DailyMail.com: 'Extending to other apps like UberEATS and more areas of the business are natural next steps and something we're exploring.' 

'Every great ride starts with the pickup, so we're always thinking about ways to make the pickup experience as frictionless as possible for riders and drivers alike,' reads the announcement.

'That includes helping riders and drivers connect should they need to get in touch with one another to solve for things like road closures, or to just provide information on their exact location.'

Now when a driver wants to get in touch to locate a passenger or vice versa, all they have to do is select 'contact' and 'chat' in the Uber feed.

If a passenger contacts a driver, the message will be read out loud so the driver doesn't have to be distracted while driving.

Then the driver can acknowledge receiving the message with one tap on the app, which will send the passenger a 'thumbs up.'

'Both riders and drivers will see if their chats are delivered and read, helping to confirm the other actually received the communication,' says Uber.

For now, the feature is aimed at helping users connect ahead of a pickup, but the company may roll it out in other ways as well. 

While the company would send calls and texts between drivers and riders through anonymizing technology to mask personal information in many markets (including the US), this hasn't been available globally and, in some places, personal numbers were being used

While the company would send calls and texts between drivers and riders through anonymizing technology to mask personal information in many markets (including the US), this hasn't been available globally and, in some places, personal numbers were being used

An Uber spokesperson told DailyMail.com: 'Extending to other apps like UberEATS and more areas of the business are natural next steps and something we're exploring.'

If a passenger contacts a driver, the message will be read out loud. Then the driver can acknowledge the message with a 'thumbs up'

If a passenger contacts a driver, the message will be read out loud. Then the driver can acknowledge the message with a 'thumbs up'

The new update prevents users - including both riders and drivers - from needing to contact each other via their personal phone numbers.

While the company would send calls and texts between drivers and riders through anonymizing technology to mask personal information in many markets (including the US), this hasn't been available globally and, in some places, personal numbers were being used. 

'Today riders and drivers can contact one another using apps outside of Uber - But these texts can lack context – is this random number my driver? How do I know if my SMS was received?' says Uber.

There have been cases in which drivers or passengers have harassed someone they connected with for an Uber ride through their anonymized and personal phone numbers.

In cases with anonymized numbers, riders have continued calling the driver (since often the mask number would remain active for weeks).

In other cases, riders have used the 'lost and found feature' to get a driver's personal phone number and harass them, according to BuzzFeed.

There have been cases in which drivers or passengers have harassed someone they connected with for an Uber ride through their anonymized and personal phone numbers

There have been cases in which drivers or passengers have harassed someone they connected with for an Uber ride through their anonymized and personal phone numbers

There have even been cases in which female drivers had men they had given rides to show up to their homes harassing them - often they had had left their phones in the car and used Find My iPhone to locate the driver's house.

'I know where you live,' one rider told a driver, Laurie, on her third day on the job.

'I found my iPhone - I know everything.'  

Recently, Uber made another update that means forgetting your bag or phone in your Uber will now officially cost you.

the company quietly updated its policies to charge riders a $15 fee to have their drivers return lost items - previously, there was no official way to go about this and drivers would receive pleading phone calls from forgetful passengers, deliver the item at their own will and hope for a tip for their time.

Now, customers can hail their abandoned belongings just like they would a ride simply by requesting their return via the 'lost item fee' link.

Previously, there was no official way to go about this and drivers would receive pleading phone calls from forgetful passengers, deliver the item at their own will and hope for a tip for their time

Previously, there was no official way to go about this and drivers would receive pleading phone calls from forgetful passengers, deliver the item at their own will and hope for a tip for their time

HOW TO GET YOUR LOST ITEM BACK

 Click on the 'lost item fee' link, scroll down, enter the phone number you would like to be contacted at and tap submit.

If you lost your personal phone, enter a friend's phone number instead.

Uber will call the number you enter to connect you directly with your driver's mobile number so you can confirm they have the item and schedule a drop-off time.

If your driver doesn't pick up, leave a detailed voicemail describing your item and the best way to contact you.

Now riders wishing to have an item returned simply click on the 'lost item fee,' scroll down and enter their contact phone number - If you lost your personal phone, you can enter a friend's phone number instead.

Uber will call the number you enter to connect you directly with your driver's mobile number so you can confirm they have the item and schedule a time for them to drop it off. 

'Neither Uber nor drivers are responsible for the items left in a vehicle after a trip ends,' reads the new policy. 'We're here to help, but cannot guarantee that a driver has your item or can immediately deliver it to you.' 

While lost items have caused riders and drivers to obtain and abuse each others personal phone numbers (even in markets where their numbers are initially anonymized) in the past, the new in-app chat feature is not targeting this problem as of right now. 

The new lost item process is still in place, so regardless of the company's update to prevent the exchange of numbers, doing so will still be the procedure for returning items left behind.

An Uber spokesperson, however, indicated this is something the company is 'exploring.' 

'Neither Uber nor drivers are responsible for the items left in a vehicle after a trip ends,' reads the new policy. 'We're here to help, but cannot guarantee that a driver has your item or can immediately deliver it to you'

'Neither Uber nor drivers are responsible for the items left in a vehicle after a trip ends,' reads the new policy. 'We're here to help, but cannot guarantee that a driver has your item or can immediately deliver it to you'

To no surprise, some customers are not pleased with the change because of the fee.

One rider took to Twitter to call the fee 'highway robbery' and extortion,' emphasizing that 'forgotten things shouldn't be held at ransom.'

'They decided to sell your stuff back to you. Ha!!! Good one!' wrote another. 

But while Uber is known for taking huge cuts from drivers' wages and nickel and diming them, the new policy isn't a greedy move for the company.

The entirety of the $15 will go to the driver to compensate them making the trip to drop off the item.

One rider took to Twitter to call the fee 'highway robbery' and extortion,' emphasizing that 'forgotten things shouldn't be held at ransom'

One rider took to Twitter to call the fee 'highway robbery' and extortion,' emphasizing that 'forgotten things shouldn't be held at ransom'

While many riders feel they are entitled to getting their belongings back for free, drivers are welcoming the change.

'I do feel this is a positive move,' James Whiteside, an Uber driver who's been driving in Atlanta, Georgia for a year and a half, told The Daily Mail.

'I can understand as a rider this seems extortion but gas and time are a drivers greatest commodity. This and the 24/7 customer support are definitely moves in the right direction.' 

Other drivers on social media echoed this, emphasizing that in the ride hail business, time is money.