Uber is adding a new feature that lets you arrange a pickup for friends, family, and even Uber boycotters. Although an existing option to set a different pickup location ostensibly allows users to arrange rides for others, the update adds a touch of personalization to the process.
Here's how it works: When you go to set a pickup away from your current location, you will be able to tell the app who will be riding in the Uber by picking a contact from your phone. Once you confirm the ride, that person will receive a text message with the driver's details and a web link to track the driver's route. Both the rider and the driver will be able to contact one another to make sure everything goes smoothly. (In order to maintain privacy, the rider's number will not be made directly available to the driver.)
Of course, you'll still have to pay for the ride using your saved payment details, unless of course you live in a region where Uber accepts cash, then you can just be a cheapskate and make your friend (or grandma) pay.
Talking about grandmas, Uber is marketing the new feature as ideal for "senior loved ones," claiming its research showed users were clamoring after the feature to help older family members to get around. In its announcement, Uber also mentions its benefits for those who don't own a smartphone (gasp, in this day and age, you should be ashamed of yourself). In all seriousness, though, the new option could be a boon for those living in places with low connectivity and low smartphone penetration. Ultimately, the feature could come in handy in a number of scenarios: for example, if your friend is visiting you from abroad and you just want to arrange his or her transportation. And if it allows Uber to gain more customers (or maybe even win back some of the roughly 200,000 customers who participated in the #DeleteUber campaign) then that won't hurt either.
The new option is rolling out to users in the US today, along with 30 additional countries. Notwithstanding the company's seemingly endless spate of internal turmoil, it seems Uber is still acutely aware of its users' practical requirements.