Uber has announced that it’s starting to roll out a feature this week that will give people the choice of booking a taxi through the official Uber chatbot on WhatsApp. It will mean that riders no longer need to use or download the Uber app as registration, ride booking, and trip receipts will all be available through the WhatsApp bot.
In terms of its schedule, the company said it will bring the feature first to Lucknow, from this week. It will then expand to New Delhi, the country’s capital, before being made available in the entire country next year. The steady expansion of this method will give the company time to ensure everything works properly.
To use the bot, riders can message an Uber driver’s business account number, scan a QR code, or click a link to directly open an Uber WhatsApp chat. They will then need to provide a pickup and drop off location, after which, they’ll be presented with the journey’s fare and the driver’s expected time of arrival.
One of the significant challenges Uber has faced over the years is making its service safe. The new WhatsApp experience will retain the safety features found in the app. Explaining, the company said:
“Riders get the same safety features and insurance protections as those who book trips via the Uber app directly. They will be informed of the name of the driver and license plate of the driver on booking; be able to track the location of the driver en route to the pickup point and be able to speak to the driver anonymously using a masked number.
The WhatsApp chat flow will inform the rider about safety guidelines, including how to reach Uber in case of emergencies (type help on-trip). If the user selects the “emergency” option while on the trip, they will receive an inbound call from Uber’s customer support team. Uber riders will also have access to the safety line numbers to call the Uber team, if needed, until 30 mins after the trip ends.”
In the case of drivers, this update brings nothing new; they will continue using the Uber app as normal. The Uber chatbot will be available in English for the time being but the company plans to add other Indian languages soon.