WASHINGTON — Uber is requiring that drivers and passengers wear masks to help to lessen the spread of the coronavirus. They'll also be requiring drivers to take a photo of themselves wearing a mask before they can begin accepting trips for the day.
As some cities are starting to emerge from lockdown, Uber said Wednesday that it will make drivers upload a mask-wearing selfie into the app before they can pick up a passenger. Riders also will have to wear a mask, but they won't have to provide proof.
Either the rider or driver can cancel a ride if the other doesn't wear a mask, and repeat violators can be kicked off the platform.
The rideshare company has been urging drivers to stay home for over two months. But now as states, along with countries around the world, begin to slowly lighten up on lockdown measures, Uber's new safety move is one of the first compromises allowing drivers to get back to work.
In a video conference, Uber executives outlined the plan, reasons behind its strict measures and why they are important to help gig economy drivers start to earn wages again.
"It’s important to us that you know what to expect when you take that 'second first trip,'" Uber said in a statement. The "second first trip" refers to CEO Dara Khosrowshahi's description of the excitement of everyone's first Uber ride, and how that compares to this new reality of taking a ride using personal protective equipment and social distancing measures.
The mask requirement starts Monday, May 18. The change in the U.S., Canada, India and most of Europe and Latin America, will continue through the end of June, when Uber says it will then reassess based on local public health needs.
Uber users can also expect new limits for UberX and UberXL to allow for more distance inside the car. The company is advising riders to no longer sit in the front seat, meaning every ride with Uber will have one less passenger seat available.
Uber's head of safety products, Sachin Kansal, said it has distributed disposable masks or cleaning supplies to about 400,000 drivers globally, distributing packs of five or ten masks and encouraging drivers to use one per day.
Uber is also encouraging drivers and riders to roll down windows to improve air flow.
Several experts said wearing a mask while taking an Uber or Lyft is probably safer than taking public transportation, where riders are exposed to more people.
The Associated Press contributed.