If you’ve used PickMe or Uber in Sri Lanka, then you would have probably come across the rather awkward scenario where your driver would keep calling you and sometimes even scold you if you were getting late to start the ride. In addition, since the app keeps a record of your phone number, it does present a number of issues related to privacy and possible harassment later on (especially if you’re female).
As a solution for this, Uber announced that they would be implementing an in-app chat feature for both the rider and driver. This process was usually one where the rider would have to make a phone call (or multiple) to the driver to see exactly where they are (despite the app giving the location) and also the opposite where the driver would call the rider to ask where the location is and would then have to wait till the rider arrived to start the trip.
The new in-app messaging feature is located at the bottom of the Uber feed. Simply swipe up and press the “Contact” button and rather than placing a phone call, you can start a chat with the driver. Any messages sent via Uber’s in-app chat is read aloud to the driver to avoid any accidents caused by the driver trying to read the message. In turn, the driver can reply with a thumbs up to acknowledge the message. Speaking of acknowledgements, the in-app chat also has a delivery receipt so that both the driver and rider know that the messages sent have been received and read.
In my personal opinion, this is a feature that was long overdue feature that needed to be added. Especially given that a few experiences with Uber by both me and a few of my close friends have been rather unpleasant. For example, one of my close female friends was harassed by her Uber driver as the driver kept calling and texting her for a while after the initial trip. He was promptly reported and the matter was resolved. Needless to say, she uses Uber a lot less now. This is in addition to the numerous cases of harassment recorded by Uber users worldwide, both from drivers to passengers and vice versa.
By no means is Uber at fault for this. But it does stand to reason that they should implement more stringent recruitment policies for drivers if such practices are not already in place. That way, both the driver and the rider can benefit from the service.
In fact, Uber hopes that with the implementation of this in-app chat feature that the need for personal phone number information will be cut down, thus resulting in increased privacy for both parties. The in-app chat will roll out to Uber users across the world within the next week so keep an eye out on your app store (Android or iOS) to see when it becomes available.
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