Uber drivers and passengers may soon be required to wear a face mask to travel; the ridesharing firm is reportedly developing technology to detect whether chauffeurs are wearing face coverings before accepting trips.
The new policy—approved last week, according to an anonymous CNN Business source—is expected to roll out “in the coming weeks.” Uber has not yet made an official announcement, and did not immediately respond to PCMag’s request for comment.
Uber’s existing “Real-Time ID Check” feature (recently launched in the UK) already verifies licensed drivers via selfies and biometric data. It’s unclear, however, whether the new technology will be part of this check or introduced as a separate function, and how Uber will hold riders accountable. “As countries reopen, Uber is focused on safety and proceeding with caution,” head of safety communications Andrew Hasbun told CNN Business. “Today, we continue to ask riders to stay home if they can, while shipping safety supplies to drivers who are providing essential trips. At the same time, our teams are preparing for the next phase of recovery, where we will all have a role to play.”
Once formally established, the policy will require drivers and delivery workers to wear “some kind of face covering,” CNN said: a surgical mask, a homemade cotton cowl, a bandana, etc. Last month, Uber began shipping masks and disinfectant spray to employees, prioritizing those in areas that previously requested drivers cover their face. “Well communicate updates directly to users when ready,” Hasbun said. “But in the meantime, we continue to urge all riders and drivers to wear masks or face coverings when using Uber.”
Ridesharing has taken a hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people stay home and avoid confined spaces with strangers. Rival Lyft last week struck the first blow, laying off 17 percent of its workforce: The company terminated some 982 jobs, furloughed another 288 people, and is reducing salaries of remaining staff. And Uber may be next, according to The Information, which recently revealed possible plans to cut about 20 percent of employees (more than 5,400 workers).