As businesses open back up, Uber is preparing for more rides by requiring drivers and passengers to wear masks.
Starting Monday, Uber will require anyone in an Uber vehicle to wear a face mask or covering. Both riders and drivers will have to self-verify on the app that they are taking precautions before a trip can start. For drivers, an additional selfie verification process will make sure drivers are masked up before driving.
It’s similar to the technology Uber already uses to make sure drivers match their licenses and profiles, called Real-Time ID Check. But this process doesn’t involve biometrics. Instead, the app just tries to detect the presence of a mask. Riders, however, won’t have to take a mask selfie.
“Verification is very important,” Uber’s head of safety products Sachin Kansal said during a virtual media briefing on Wednesday. “We have to enforce those requirements, so we’re using technologies to detect if drivers are wearing a mask.”
Starting Monday, the Uber app will change to reflect the new requirements.
The app will change for both riders and drivers. If either don’t wear a mask, the other can report the violation during the rating process. Drivers can also cancel a ride if a passenger isn’t wearing a mask as they approach the vehicle.
Uber is still encouraging riders to stay home as much as possible. But as stay-at-home orders are lifted, the San Francisco company anticipates more demand for personal rides (instead of, say, a crowded bus ride). As Lyft and Uber noted during recent earnings calls, they’re starting to see an uptick in requests in states that are opening up, such as Georgia and Texas.
“These are not permanent decisions,” Kansal said during the call Wednesday. Uber will re-evaluate its new requirements as the pandemic progresses.
Uber Pool will remain suspended to allow for social distancing. But there is also a new three-person limit for UberX rides. This is to protect the driver by keeping the front seat open.
Riders and drivers are also encouraged to keep windows down for ventilation, while drivers can add more safety equipment like plastic partitions if they want. But it’s up to drivers to source (that means pay for) safety materials beyond the masks and sanitizer Uber is distributing to drivers. It’s also on drivers to sanitize and clean their cars.
Lyft announced mask requirements earlier this month, but didn’t specify when those would start to be enforced. Both Lyft and Uber said if a rider or driver is reported without a mask repeatedly they can be kicked off the platform.