I recently read an article in Intelligent Transport , exploring whether rideshare, such as from Uber and Lyft was a substitute or complementary to public transport. It quoted research from SMART which found that a third of ride-share trips were made instead of using public transport during working hours, between 8 am and 6 pm.
I’ve frequently considered the risk of community transmission of COVID19 on a bus, either from being in proximity of an infected passenger. The likelihood is that many passengers will grasp a handle, and most have to either push a button to alert the driver that they want to get off, or to open the door when they arrive.
No matter how good the COVID19 health and safety policy is, it is simply impossible to clean all areas passengers come into contact with often enough to minimise the risk to a meaningful level.
Is Uber safe to use during the COVID19 pandemic? Would it be safer, simply because less people are in an Uber car during the course of a day? Are Uber vehicles cleaned between passengers?
Uber is running a trial with Clorox in as a ‘commitment to clean’ in Atlanta, Chicago and New York City. Great places to do it in my humble opinion given that many people in those cities don’t own cars and rely heavily on public transport and ride hailing.
600,000 canisters of Clorox disinfecting wipes have been distributed to drivers, in order to sanitize their cars to protect their passengers, as well as give their customers the option to clean seat belts or any areas they might be concerned about.
The driver can tick boxes on their Uber app to let customers know that the driver has no COVID19 or coronavirus related symptoms and that they are wearing a face mask. It is even recommended that the driver upload an image of themselves wearing a face mask to add to customer confidence.
I suspect that the pilot which started this month will be very popular with patrons, and could draw even more passengers into Uber vehicles, away from buses and trains.
Around the US and Canada, Uber has supplied drivers with 5 million face masks and a lot of other health supplies.
I’ve written articles previously about the taxi industry who have complained frequently about disruptive transport competitors. I suggested that that services like location based apps could have easily been provided by taxi companies, either before the likes of Uber arrived, or by learning about what their customers want, based on reasons (other than price) why people use rideshare services.
When I looked online to see what information taxi companies are providing on their websites about COVID19, most had no mention at all. There were a few like Blue Bubble who do have a link on their homepage to a page explaining the responsibility of drivers, which isn’t bad, but I feel it is another opportunity missed for most.
I hope that Uber will quickly expand this pilot globally. If I was in the taxi industry, I’d be looking to do something similar quickly, especially in cities where Uber hasn’t launched these features yet. It would make competitive sense for any brand, wouldn’t it?