Uber is launching a new feature that lets you state someone else in your phone’s contact book as the rider for the trip. It was always possible to book a ride and name another pickup point if you wanted to, but the new feature really slicks the process, allows both rider and driver to contact one another directly and still makes sure the requester is the one who foots the bill.

 

The new feature is simple in terms of how it’s used, adding a step when you set a pickup location that isn’t your phone’s current geotagged spot. This will call up a request dialog that asks whether the ride is for you, or for “Someone Else,” which will then open up your address book, let you pick a contact and then set the destination for the ride and send the request.

It uses your contact book info to connect the driver and the rider; the rider gets a text message to their phone that offers their driver’s name, a link that lets them track their progress on a map, and a contact number so they can reach them directly. The driver will see the rider’s name and also be able to contact them directly, though your friend’s phone number isn’t shared directly with the driver.

Uber product manager Kyle Miller explained on a call that Uber believes this will be especially useful for users who want to provide rides to their ageing loved ones, to help them with the growing challenge of mobility when they don’t necessarily have access to their own Uber accounts or smartphones.

“On the product team, we’re focused on making Uber accessible to everyone in the family, and on making people’s lives easier around the world,” “What we’ve learned through research is that at a macro level, people want an easy way to request a ride for a loved one. This was, in particular, a big request for riders internationally, whose loved ones probably didn’t have smartphones or good connectivity, with also a specific emphasis on seniors.”

Miller said that specifically with senior loved one, their research showed that users were concerned about them losing their mobility as they got older, and they were also concerned about being overwhelmed with having to take on managing those mobility problems themselves. That’s what drove the development of this feature.

The new feature launched in the US yesterday, and in 30 other countries as well, at the same time, including India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and more, with additional markets getting the update soon.

Uber may be facing a plethora of very challenging problems at the upper management level, including a big gap in its senior leadership, and across its workplace culture, but it’s still got to focus on product refinement if it wants to retain its market leadership, and this feature broadens its potential customer base to a previously hard to reach user group, via the proxy of existing riders.

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