On Thursday, ride-hailing giant Uber Technologies announced a new in-app messaging feature that will allow riders to send text messages directly to their driver once a ride is booked, and vice versa.
Before, messaging your driver was a bit of a hassle; riders have to select “contact” then “chat,” which then takes you out of the Uber app and into a new texting conversation. From there, you can send a quick text to your driver about location or other details that make pick-up easier.
Now, a chat feature will appear in the Uber app once you book a ride, showing your driver’s name, vehicle type, and plate number at the top of the messaging screen; you can even see read/received receipts for sent messages.
For drivers, Uber made sure to caution them against texting while driving, and should only message riders when stopped. Received messages will actually be read aloud to drivers, and to help with distractions, they can acknowledge a message by tapping a “thumbs up” emoji response.
“In many of our markets, SMS isn’t actually available for us, we don’t have the technology in place,” said Uber Product Manager Jeremy Lermitte in an interview. “That’s especially true in some of our key markets like Brazil and India. And then in other emerging markets where we do offer SMS, we don’t have the technology in place to anonymize the personal contact info, so the rider and driver are actually sharing their personal contact information in some of those markets.”
Uber has been adding more and more to its app over the years, like calendar integrations, offering to use friends as destination locations, and even Snap Inc.’s (SNAP - Free Report) Snapchat filters. It’s obvious the company wants to be more than just a platform to request a ride, and this mission shows in its food delivery and social media efforts as well.
It’s also interesting to think about how else Uber will employ this new messaging technology. Implementing the feature in UberEATS seems like the next probable step, and in-app messaging will certainly be part of any of Uber’s future business ventures.
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