Uber adds in-app messaging between riders and drivers

Uber App screenshot

Uber App screenshot

The ride-hailing giant on Thursday said it plans to add a feature that will allow drivers and riders to send messages to each other inside the app. (Literally while I'm writing this, a black auto driver is leaning on their horn outside my apartment.) Like all tech companies desperately trying to smooth out modern life's rough edges, Uber has a new solution: in-app messaging. Rather than placing a call or sending a message with your phone's default service, there's now an instant messenger client built right into the Uber app. When a driver gets the message, it will be read out loud so they can focus on the road. Uber is a free download from the Play Store.

The chat feature will be rolled out over the next few weeks for all drivers and riders using iOS and Android. Uber has also included read receipts, so even if you don't hear back from your driver you can tell that he or she likely saw your message. I tried dropping a pin at my location and just walking down the street, but finally settled on texting drivers whenever I request a ride and just telling them where I am. The driver can then respond with one tap of their device to send a thumbs up to the rider. There exists to the option to use each other's phone numbers for a text or call, but this will come up as an unknown number for either recipient and could go unanswered.

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Ordering an Uber is one thing.

The in-app messaging feature arose because the SMS method had a number of areas where it was lacking from a user experience perspective, according to Uber Product Manager Jeremy Lermitte.

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"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". Both riders and drivers will see if their chats are delivered and read, helping to confirm the other actually received the communication.

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