Global ride-sharing app Uber made some India-specific announcements at a roundtable in Bengaluru on 17 November, to ensure an improved rider experience. While the announcements were made in India, they are global in nature and could be applicable in other markets as well. Just a day after launching Uber’s second engineering facility in India, in Hyderabad, Uber vice president and head of product Daniel Graf said that the Hyderabad facility would be working on innovations that can be applied to Indian as well as other global markets where Uber operates. “As a part of our efforts to enable global access to Uber, we’re focussing on two key areas for riders – building solutions for those who don’t have access to the Uber app and enabling our existing rider app to work better in emerging markets,” said Graf. Uber which is available in 29 cities in India and does around 10 million rides globally. It has partnered with around 450,000 drivers in India. According to Graf, while India is a big market for Uber, according to their research around one-third of Uber’s rider app is used on phones connected to 3G or 2G networks. To ensure current app users and new users of Uber are not bothered by existing issues related to network connectivity, Uber announced four new features. These are a progressive web app for Uber ride booking, call to ride functionality, offline search, and request for a guest. The progressive mobile version of Uber ( which will roll out from 17 November onwards aims to target users who do not have smartphones or access to an Uber app to book a ride. You can book a ride by logging on to the web version of Uber, selecting your location, your Uber ride type and confirming the ride. Availability: Starting to roll out from 17 November. Call to Ride With this feature, Uber is trying to address users who prefer booking rides via a phone call than going through the app. Currently being tested in Pune, the ‘Call to Ride’ feature involves calling a nation-wide number which is advertised on an Uber billboard in a popular destination in your city (think malls, colleges or other areas of importance which have heavy density of riders), entering the four-digit code pertaining to that physical spot and then booking the ride. This feature is targetted at riders who use only a feature phone or areas that have limited network connectivity or users who have the Uber app but are out of their data plan. Once the ride is confirmed, the rider will receive a message from Uber along with the details of the driver and the car type and car registration number. The demo of this feature which was shown at the roundtable involved a rider interacting with an automated call receiver. The feature is driven by entering the correct four-digit code after following the IVRS directions. You can also cancel a ride after booking by redialling the national number and following the directions to cancel the ride. Uber is trying to anticipate use cases which could arise causing a rider to call back after booking the ride so that the issues are resolved without involving any customer support type resource on the other end. Availability: The program is currently being tested in Pune and there is no certainty pertaining to dates as to when this feature will go live. We have all had that instance where we have booked a ride for a friend or a relative. With the ‘Request for a Guest’ feature, Uber has officially made this feature simpler to use. It will let you book a ride for your family or friends irrespective of the location of the rider or the guest. The person you are booking the ride for does not need to have an Uber app. He or she will get an SMS with the information such as the expected time of arrival of the ride, the car type, and driver contact information so that they can coordinate with the driver easily. The driver can also see the rider’s name and will be able to contact the person via a masked number to protect privacy. You can either pay yourself or select the cash option for the rider to make the payment. Availability: The feature is expected to roll out in the next few weeks. Offline Search This feature basically revolves around caching location data on the device, at times when the network connectivity is intermittent in a particular locality. Uber will be enabling offline search by caching the top points of interest in your city, which will allow you to quickly type out your destination without having to wait for a strong network. This feature is expected to work based on the network strength in the area. Availability: The rollout of this feature is expected to begin in the next few weeks. While these announcements were made in India, Uber representatives assured us that these features could also be applicable in other markets if the need arose.  

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