Uber launched a new phone-booking feature, 1-833-USE-UBER, designed for older adults to request a ride without needing to download the app.
The pilot feature will first be available across Arizona, connecting users with a live person to confirm and quote an Uber trip. The feature requires users to have an SMS or "text-based" mobile phone to receive messages about the ride ETA, driver’s license plate information and trip receipts.
The update was based on feedback from older adults who said live conversations and a simplistic experience would better serve their transportation needs. While older adults are the target demographic, the service is available to all riders.
First-time riders will pay for the service over the phone with the live operator, Uber's Head of U.S. City Operations Danielle Sheridan told Smart Cities Dive via email. The payment information will then be linked to the rider's phone number and used for future trip requests.
"1-833-USE-UBER is about expanding access so older adults — and anyone that prefers a live conversation — can use Uber to continue living independent lifestyles, and have the confidence that age isn't a barrier to using technology," she said.
The new dial option is the latest in a series of more inclusive features and offerings from the ride-share giant.
Ride-share can be a great way to maintain older adults' independence and overall mobility. But only 13% of people older than 65 use Uber or Lyft, compared to 45% of people ages 18-29, according to a 2018 Gallup survey.
Among Uber's inclusive offerings is a bolstering of the company's wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs). Pittsburgh-area residents filed a class action lawsuit against Uber for a lack of WAVs, brought by Disability Rights Advocate (DRA) and Carlson Lynch LLP. The DRA also filed similar lawsuits against Uber and Lyft in California, and against Uber in New York.
To make their services more accessible, Uber announced a partnership in 2018 with MV Transportation, a third-party transportation provider, to increase WAV availability in major cities, including New York, Chicago, Boston and Toronto. MV Transportation serves over 110 million seniors and passengers with disabilities, broadening Uber's reach and addressing criticism about not offering accessible-enough services.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has also acknowledged the company still has room for improvement in this area.