Uber overhauls app to address COVID-19 safety concerns. Here’s what it means for rideshare and delivery drivers.

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Whether you’ve been driving during the COVID-19 crisis, or you’re just getting ready to go back out there, you’ll definitely see big changes starting May 18. 

Uber has overhauled both their driver and rider apps to include new rules for rideshare drivers, delivery drivers, and riders to address COVID-19 safety concerns.

So you know what to expect come May 18th, we’ve took a deep look at Uber’s new driver app to understand what the changes are and how they will affect drivers.

In this article we’ll cover:

  1. What changes Uber made to it’s driver app
  2. What changes Uber made to it’s passenger app
  3. What drivers should do if a passenger is not wearing a mask
  4. What happens if a driver is not wearing a mask
  5. How drivers can get masks and sanitization supplies
  6. How Lyft and other companies are adjusting for COVID-19

Let’s dig in!

What does Uber’s app overhaul mean for drivers and passengers?

Many of the new rules that Uber is now enforcing have been imposed by government agencies, so you’re probably used to them already. The difference is that Uber is now making the government rules their rules, and enforcing them aggressively. 

It’s important to note that the rules are in effect worldwide; they apply whether your area is mandated to wear masks or not, and they apply to rideshare and Uber Eats.

What’s changing for drivers:

  • You’ll be required to wear a mask or face cover on every trip. It must cover your face from the bridge of your nose down to your chin, and be secured so that it’s close to your face. This will be enforced via a photo check.
  • You’ll need to certify that you won’t go online if you have any symptoms of COVID-19.
  • You’ll need to sanitize your vehicle at least once a day
  • You’ll no longer be able to take passengers in the front seat

Before you log on, Uber drivers will have to verify that they are compliant with the above rules via an in-app checklist. The checklist looks like this:

Notice that the app states, “You’ll be asked to take a photo for verification.” If you’re an Uber driver, you’re used to taking selfies to verify your identity, and now you’ll have to take one to prove you’re wearing a mask. 

The 3-screen process looks like this:

Once you’ve completed the checklist and the photo of you wearing a mask goes through, your passengers and delivery customers will receive an in-app message confirming you’ve complied with all required safety precautions, and that you’re wearing a mask.

What’s changing for passengers?

  • Riders must wear a face mask for the entire ride.
  • Riders will be reminded to wash or sanitize their hands before they can ride.
  • Riders must agree to sit in the back seat, and open windows for ventilation.

Just like drivers, riders will have a checklist in their app, along with the ability to go through a separate checklist and give feedback regarding safety concerns, specifically, if the driver isn’t wearing a mask.

What should drivers do if passengers are not wearing masks?

It can happen! There will be times when customers complain about wearing a mask, show up without one, or can’t see why you won’t allow them to sit in the front seat because they get carsick in the back. 

Before this app update, you’d have to resort to getting caught in a disagreement, suffering the pain of a low rating or complaint, and writing your own note to customer service.

Now, with the updated app, you’ll be able to cancel the ride—and you’ll have the option to say you cancelled because the rider had “no face cover or mask.” Cancelling for this reason won’t affect your Uber Pro status, in case you’re concerned about that.

While there is no app option for “refusal to ride in the back seat” (at least not yet), there is a way for you to handle this situation. Riders are told through the app that in UberX cars, no more than three passengers can ride at one time, and they must all be in the back seat. If you cancel because a passenger insists on sitting up front, you could technically use “safety” as a reason. You wouldn’t be safe with a rider in your front seat, so it’s the truth.

If customers refuse to comply with the new policy, you can report them through the app. Uber will review the case and possibly restrict their future access to the app.

What happens if I get reported for not wearing a face mask?

The simplest answer to that dilemma is: Always wear a face mask. In the event you get reported, the Uber support team will review your case, and if they decide it’s warranted, you could lose access to the app.

How can drivers receive masks and sanitizing supplies?

Individual drivers, and the advocacy groups that often speak for them, have brought up the issue of mask and sanitizing supply costs. Uber has recently reached out to all its drivers with an offer to send two disposable ear loop face masks. 

Uber claims to be working on making more supplies available by partnering with manufacturers of cleaning and disinfecting products. No one is quite sure what that means, but in the meantime, remember that keeping your car disinfected is as important to you as it is to your riders.

Drivers can also buy their own facemasks. Unfortunately, many drivers will have to pay out of pocket for supplies for the foreseeable future.

What are other rideshare and delivery companies doing?

Let’s look at the other companies to see what their policies are, and if there’s any news about further measures being taken as more states and areas open up for business.

Lyft

Beginning May 18, Lyft will enforce a policy systemwide that’s identical to Uber’s. Self-enforcement will be the backbone of the enactment of the policy, at least so far. 

There are no signs of updates coming to the app, beyond an education program Lyft promises to distribute to drivers and riders. The company says the program will be widely distributed and will focus on the recommendations of the CDC and other health authorities.

While it’s admirable that Lyft is going to require new safety measures, drivers might have a great deal of difficulty regulating both themselves and their passengers. There’s always the recourse of contacting customer service, but that could lead to an overload of complaints unless more is done to enforce the policies through the app.

Food and grocery delivery companies

The food delivery companies have been practicing contact-free delivery for some time. The apps provide a way for customers to instruct drivers to leave the order at the door, ring the doorbell, or leave it on the porch railing. The companies also insist drivers comply with local regulations for wearing masks and gloves, as well as social distancing guidelines. Here are some ideas about what major players in the delivery game are doing to support their drivers—or failing to do so.

Instacart

Instacart got into some trouble for not providing its shoppers with masks and other sanitizing equipment. Workers walked out in early April, and the company responded not by giving its shoppers the supplies they need, but by adding items to their online store for purchase. Masks are a requirement in most places, and whether Instacart will respond with more help for its workers remains unknown. 

DoorDash

There’s no official policy yet, but Dashers are subject to local rules. In most areas of the country that means they’re required to wear masks, especially before entering an establishment that handles food. There have been reports of “free” face masks in the DoorDash store, but at this point availability is restricted to key areas.

Postmates

It looks like Postmates Fleet members are on their own when it comes to acquiring masks and sanitizing supplies. Fleet members are required to follow the regulations in effect in their area, and in most cases they’ll have to wear masks. Although there’s no policy about using hand sanitizer and avoiding direct contact with bags that have been touched or are going to be touched by the customer, doing so is just plain smart.

Grubhub

It’s encouraging to see a company provide as much as Grubhub does for its drivers. On its website, drivers can find suggestions for wearing masks, handling bagged food, and keeping social distancing guidelines. The company even goes into detail about the importance of keeping the vehicle clean and sanitary.

Better yet, Grubhub offers free kits containing hand sanitizer, masks, and (while supplies last) latex gloves. Items can be ordered individually, and delivery is also free. There are limits, of course, but at least the company makes an effort to provide its workers with items they can use to stay safe.

The long road back to normal

It’s a good thing to see the companies taking measures to help drivers, delivery people, and our customers feel safe as we s l o w l  y move out of isolation. It will be challenging to take the first steps, but with the right safety measures we can start moving in the direction toward a more prosperous future.

While you’re making this big transition, Gridwise is here to support you with information and services you can find at your fingertips.

Let us know how you’re doing! Comment below to fill us in if you have an experience you’d like to share with the Gridwise community.

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