Uber is rolling out a new feature this week that will let users reserve rides up to 30 days in advance and pick their favorite driver for the trip as the ride-hailing company seeks new ways to attract customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new option, called Uber Reserve, which will begin to show up on the app in the next week, is designed for users who want to book a ride at least two hours in advance. Uber said it will keep its current “schedule a ride” option for those trips that fall under that two hours in advance timeline. “While saving you time lays at the heart of our service, we wanted to take this idea to the next level by building mobility features that more flexibly fit around your life,” said Holley Beasley, operations lead at Uber. Riders who use the Reserve feature will be shown their fare upfront and be matched to a driver ahead of the trip. The company has also folded in a “favorite driver” option. Riders can now add favorite drivers to their app. Once they select the Reserve features, riders will have the option to select one of their “favorite drivers.” These favorite drivers will be offered to them first. Uber stressed that drivers aren’t penalized for opting not to take the ride. The ride-hailing company baked in two other perks, an additional 15-minute grace period if the rider is running late and an on-time guarantee that will give users $50 in Uber Cash if their driver is even a minute late to the ride they have scheduled. That Uber Cash will come directly from Uber, not the driver’s earnings, the company told TechCrunch. Uber said it’s added protection for the drivers as well. If a Reserve ride is canceled within an hour of the trip, the driver will receive the full fare. The feature was in development before COVID-19, according to Geoff Tam-Scott, a product manager at Uber. However, the company noticed that its existing scheduling feature was being used more frequently as COVID-19 took hold. By late spring, “we were all hands on deck to try to accelerate the development of this feature,” Tam-Scott added. Uber Reserve will launch initially in 20 U.S. cities and will start with premium Uber Black and Black SUV rides. The company said it will make the feature available to other ride options such as Uber X, “comfort” and XL by the end of the year. The initial launch cities include Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Charleston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, D.C., Fort-Myers / Naples, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Milwaukee, Nashville, New Jersey, New York City, New Orleans, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Seattle. *By Kirsten Korosec via TechCrunch*

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