As U.S. cities begin to reopen, Uber is seeing an open road.
CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told the “Today” show’s Savannah Guthrie on Friday morning that “we certainly do” think the worst of the pandemic is now in the company’s rear view mirror.
The nationwide quarantine orders that have temporarily closed non-essential businesses and kept people at home for the past few months have hit ride-hailing services like Uber UBER, +6.35% and Lyft LYFT, -1.48% hard. Data from analysts and interviews with drivers have suggested that ridership plummeted by as much as 80% in some cities in April. And the company reported a quarterly loss of nearly $3 billion earlier this month, largely resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. That’s led Uber to lay off 6,700 employees, or about 25% of its workforce.
Competitor Lyft has also reported business sinking 75% by mid-April, and laid off 17% of its workforce (about 1,000 people) and furloughed another 288 employees.
But Khosrowshahi told the Comcast-owned CMCSA, +0.12% morning news show on Friday that “we are seeing signs of life” as all 50 U.S. states have started relaxing some social distancing guidelines and reopening businesses.
“We are very much a local business,” he said. “And when the heartbeat of this city starts beating again, Uber starts moving. We are seeing business improve from those April lows.”
But he doesn’t expect life to go back to exactly the way it was before the pandemic. And he admitted that drivers and riders alike probably won’t feel fully comfortable being confined in a close space together again until a vaccine or some other COVID-19 breakthrough is reached.
“Getting out of the house, starting to move again is gonna feel funny, and it may feel unsafe, and we are doing our part to make it as safe as possible,” he said, adding that Uber has redesigned its ride-hailing experience “from top to bottom with safety in mind.”
Both riders and drivers will be required to wear masks during each Uber trip, and drivers will need to send in a selfie showing their face is covered before accepting rides. If the Uber app does not detect that they’re wearing a face mask or other covering, they will not be allowed to accept a trip. What’s more, the Uber app will also prompt passengers to confirm they are covering their face, and both passengers and drivers are allowed to cancel rides without penalty if either party does not comply.
“It’s a two-way street,” said Khosrowshahi, noting that the company has spent “millions” on personal protective equipment to secure and deliver 23 million masks to drivers. What’s more, drivers must verify each day that they are not showing any coronavirus symptoms, as well as confirm that they have sanitized their vehicles.
Lyft has also announced that its drivers and riders will be required to “self-certify” that they will wear face masks throughout the ride, and that they are free of any COVID-19 symptoms.
“Life begins anew,” Khosrowshahi continued. “[People] are gonna be more careful, they are gonna wear masks, we’re gonna have cleaning supplies, so certain things are gonna change.”
When asked about Uber’s future in the long-term after the pandemic, Khosrowshahi said the company is more focused on the “short-term into tomorrow,” right now, and creating the safest experience it can.
“The long-term will take care of itself,” he said. “But I do think that business is gonna come back. If life comes back into the city, then Uber will be back along with it.”