Long before Uber get its self-driving Teslas on road, the company is looking to improve its existing service by serving a specific niche: senior citizens and what it calls “disability communities.”
The service is called uberASSIST and will allow users to select specially trained drivers who are prepped to handle passengers with special equipment, such as walkers, scooters and wheelchairs.
Driver training comes via the Open Doors Organization, a Chicago-based non-profit.
“We’ve been doing preliminary driver training for wheelchair-accessible taxis for the last two and a half years,” an Open Doors Organization spokesperson told Mashable. According to that spokesperson, the training includes a mix of general sensitivity training as well as instruction focused on correctly securing a passenger’s assistive devices inside a vehicle.
The feature, as described by Uber, is enabled in the Uber app by simply going to the Promotions section and entering the “assist” promotion code. Afterward, the uberASSIST option shows up alongside the rest of the car request choices.
Today’s expansion of the service brings it to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In 2014, Uber launched the first uberASSIST programs in Chicago, Houston and later in San Diego, along with a similar program called UberWAV for users in need of wheelchair-accessible vehicles with a ramp or hydraulic lift.
“We’re always working to make the Uber experience as seamless as possible for our riders and driver-partners,” and Uber spokesperson told Mashable. “The launch of uberASSIST in San Francisco and Los Angeles is one more step we are taking to expand on that commitment.”
The company highlighted its attention to its older customers in a video (above) posted on Friday, which featured a number of older users extolling the virtues of the service.
These changes may be in response, in part, to some of the criticism the company has received with regard to its drivers’ handling of disabled passengers.
In 2014, Uber was sued after drivers allegedly refused to pick up blind passengers with service dogs. A similar lawsuit hit Uber competitorLyft last year when an Austin, Texas, woman claimed the company didn’t accommodate her need for a wheelchair-accessible vehicle.
In addition to the afore-mentioned cities, the uberASSIST service is also available in Honolulu, Portland, Oregon and Australia. Although it’s unclear when the uberASSIST service will be extended to the rest of the U.S., the good news is that the service is priced the same as UberX, the company’s most affordable option.
source – mashable.com