When a passenger messages a driver, they’ll see their license plate number, car model, and name. It also has read receipts, allowing you to see if your driver got the message, and if you need to send a follow-up.
Obviously, using a cell phone when behind the wheel is hugely dangerous. In a lot of states and countries, like the UK, it’s illegal.
The Uber Partner app warns drivers to only use the in-app messaging feature when stopped. To reduce distractions, it reads messages aloud, and lets drivers respond with a ‘thumbs up’ emoji — a la Facebook Messenger.
Uber’s new messaging feature replaces the previous SMS-based system, which frankly sucked, as it was tied to a phone number.
If you change your number and forget to update your Uber account, use local SIM cards when traveling, or (like me) use two different phones, it’s a really terrible experience.
Speaking to TechCrunch, Uber Product Manager Jeremy Lermitte also pointed out that in some markets, there’s the issue that phone plans often don’t come with unlimited SMS messaging. There are also anonymity issues associated with SMS messaging:
“In many of our markets, SMS isn’t actually available for us, we don’t have the technology in place. That’s especially true in some of our key markets like Brazil and India. And then in other emerging markets where we do offer SMS, we don’t have the technology in place to anonymize the personal contact info, so the rider and driver are actually sharing their personal contact information in some of those markets.”
Let’s hope that the next step for Uber is moving voice calls to a data-based system, too.
In-app messaging is rolling out globally, and will be available to drivers and passengers with the latest version of the app over the coming weeks.