Uber is rolling out a new chat feature that allows drivers and riders to communicate with each other directly through the app.
A rider can send a text via chat to a driver with location details or other information. The app reads the text aloud and drivers can send a “thumbs up” read receipt with the tap of a button. Uber is rolling out the chat tool globally over the next few weeks.
The new feature will make it possible for Uber users around the world to keep their phone numbers private. In the U.S., Uber anonymizes phone numbers but that technology isn’t available in every market.
Adding chat to the app may seem like a small change — and frankly, a no-brainer — but the feature is significant because it’s Uber’s first foray into chat and voice technology.
The update comes as other big tech companies, like Facebook, are investing heavily in chat and chatbots. Amazon, Google, and others are betting big on voice-controlled technology as the new operating system for the connected car and home.
“This is our first step towards leveraging real-time-messaging to enable seamless communication experiences for our customers and help them connect in both the digital and physical worlds,” Uber Product Manager Jeremy Lermitte said in a blog post.
Could Uber’s new chat feature signal bigger ambitions for the company? Tell us what you think in the comments.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to clarify that Uber riders in the U.S. do not share their personal phone numbers when communicating with drivers.