Why it matters to you
If exchanging numbers with your Uber driver makes you uncomfortable, this new in-app messaging feature will help assuage your concerns.
Your Uber driver may be your ride home, but that does not mean he or she is your best friend. So naturally, you should not be clogging up your texts with random messages from your driver’s unknown number. Happily, Uber agrees, and has now introduced in-app messaging. That means that you can now connect with your driver from within the Uber app itself, putting an end to those potentially awkward (and oddly personal) SMS exchanges.
“Every great ride starts with the pickup, so we’re always thinking about ways to make the pickup experience as frictionless as possible for riders and drivers alike,” Uber noted in an announcement. “That includes helping riders and drivers connect should they need to get in touch with one another to solve for things like road closures, or to just provide information on their exact location.”
Getting connected is as easy as going to your Uber feed and tapping the “contact” section, and then tapping “chat.” The messages you send to your driver will be read aloud to him or her (so don’t worry — there will be no texting while driving as a result of your communication). Drivers can acknowledge that your message has been read with a single tap, which will send you a thumbs up emoji. Plus, both riders and drivers will have read receipts, so you will know that you are on the same page.
The addition of the in-app chat feature will eliminate the need for drivers and passengers to share their phone numbers with one another, which could help to address some privacy concerns. And perhaps more saliently, not all of Uber’s cities can actually make use of these shared numbers. “In many of our markets, SMS isn’t actually available for us, we don’t have the technology in place,” Uber Product Manager Jeremy Lermitte told TechCrunch. “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.”
In-app messaging, however, could solve many of those issues. The feature is rolling out globally to drivers and riders alike over the coming week, and you will need the latest version of the app to take advantage of it.