Uber and Lyft today revealed they’re both temporarily suspending carpooling services. As more and more health organizations recommend people keep their distances from each other in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, both ridesharing services are attempting to take measures to protect both their drivers and riders without suspending operations completely.
Uber announced that it would be suspending the UberPool option in the US and Canada, as well as Paris and London. It’s also added an in-app message asking riders to reconsider non-essential trips, and to protect themselves and the driver by washing their hands and giving the driver distance.
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Uber has already been attempting to mitigate the situation for its drivers, including offering two weeks of financial assistance for any driver that must quarantine themselves, have tested positive for the virus, or have had their accounts suspended for public health reasons. It’s also attempting to provide drivers still working with disinfectants, so they can keep their cars clean. As for Uber Eats, it’s waiving fees for independent restaurants that might be impacted by the social distancing.
Lyft is also suspending Shared rides on all markets starting today, saying, “The health and safety of the Lyft community is our top priority.” It also promised financial assistance to drivers affected by the coronavirus, but hasn’t specified how much or for how long. In both cases, the companies have said they’ll be taking cues from the authorities on how long to continue operations.
Neither company is completely suspending business, which is probably for the best — even assuming everyone is being assiduous with their social distancing, there will still be essential workers, like those in the healthcare industry. And people will likely still need to go to grocery stores and pharmacies. Everyone staying inside 24/7 is the dream, but not the reality. But at least users won’t be in close quarters with too many other potential infectees.
The Independent Drivers Guild, a New York group that supports gig drivers, have been calling for a halt to carpooling services since the outbreak began. Organizer Tina Raveneau told the New York Post, “At a time when health authorities are urging social distancing, app companies should not be packing five strangers in a van. For everyone’s health and safety, pool rides have to go.”