Uber now lets you request a ride for someone else

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Uber is adding a new feature that lets you specify someone else in your phone’s contact book as the rider for the trip. It was always possible to hail a ride and specify another pickup point if you wanted to, but the new feature really streamlines the process, allows both rider and driver to contact one another directly and still makes sure the requester is the one who foots the bill.

The new feature is simple in terms of how it’s used, adding a step when you set a pickup location that isn’t your phone’s current geotagged spot. This will call up a request dialog that asks whether the ride is for your, or for “Someone Else,” which will then open up your address book, let you pick a contact and then set the destination for the ride and send the request.

It uses your contact book info to connect the driver and the rider; the rider gets a text message to their phone that offers their driver’s name, a link that lets them track their progress on a map, and a contact number so they can reach them directly. The driver will see the rider’s name and also be able to contact them directly, though your friend’s phone number isn’t shared directly with the driver.

Uber product manager Kyle Miller explained on a call that Uber thinks this will be especially useful for users who want to provide rides to their aging loved ones, to help them with the increasing challenge of mobility when they don’t necessarily have access to their own Uber accounts or smartphone devices.

“On the product team, we’re focused on making Uber accessible to everyone in the family, and on making people’s lives easier around the world,” “What we’ve learned through research is that at a macro level, people want an easy way to request a ride for a loved one. This was in particular a big request for riders internationally, whose loved ones maybe don’t have smartphones or good connectivity, with also a specific emphasis on seniors.”

Miller said that specifically with senior loved one, their research showed that users were concerned about them losing their mobility as they got older, and they were also concerned about being overwhelmed with having to take on managing those mobility problems themselves. That’s what drove the development of this feature.

It’s rolling out in the U.S. starting today, but also in 30 other countries at the same time, including India, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and more, with additional markets getting the update soon.

Uber may be facing a host of very challenging problems at the top, including a big gap in its senior leadership, and across its workplace culture, but it’s still got to focus on product iteration if it wants to retain its market leadership, and this feature broadens its potential customer base to a previously hard to reach user group, via the proxy of existing riders.