Uber is trying to solve the biggest issue with taxi-apps by launching three new features in India

Uber has launched three new app features in India namely offline search, request for a guest and call to ride. The company has also launched a new mobile website for the country. (Disclosure: Uber and Business Insider both are strategic partners with Times Bridge)

Currently, Uber's biggest competitor in the country, Ola has only one of the new features namely the mobile website. Ola also has a SMS to book service for offline customers but these features are unique to Uber. Ola started as a Call to book service with a call centre but now only takes online bookings.

Uber doesn't have a call centre in India and this call-to-ride service will be using Interactive Voice Response technology for now.

Manik Gupta, Head of Product, Marketplace and Maps for Uber told Business Insider, “All the features announced today are specific to India and have been launched here first, but have global applicability. These features tackle basic issues across the spectrum pertaining to network connectivity. These are a contribution towards 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.”

In India, Uber has over 150 engineers and product employees in Bangalore and the Hyderabad engineering facility working on innovations and localizations for markets around the world. Gupta said mentioned how a lot of them are working towards increasing the efficiency of the maps on the Uber platform.

As Uber works towards becoming more inclusive for India, other forms of transportation except cars also comes into focus.

UberMOTO has been increasingly accepted as a form of transport even as UberEATS in six cities uses two-wheelers for its delivery service.

Uber has experimented with autos in the past but Gupta says that the company experiments with different modes of transport to figure out what works best. “Our mission is to make traffic a thing of the past. How we do it keeps changing whether it’s through two-wheelers or now UberPOOL. Our work is complimentary in the sense that how we build public transit while solving for last mile connectivity.”

Gupta also mentioned how these new features with improve the biggest issue with taxi services- improving the Estimated Time of Arrival and pick-up and drop locations.

Here are the new features:

1) M.uber.com: The light web-based version of Uber will be helpful for riders who have basic smartphones, that can support web browsing but cannot support mobile apps due to limited storage space, or want to book a ride from a tablet or computer.

How it works:

○Open your browser, enter m.uber.com, browse the app and available options, sign into your Uber account when ready to book

○Enter your destination, select your product as you normally would and confirm your ride.

2) Call to ride: Uber is piloting a phone number, currently just in Pune that riders can call to book an Uber across popular zones. This will be particularly useful for riders who only have a feature phone, areas with limited network or those who use a smartphone but have limited memory capacity.

How it works:

●Riders will call single nationwide phone number and enter a numeric code displayed on signage to help Uber identify their location.

●Once the ride is confirmed, the rider will also be sent a text message with information on the car and driver partner.

●An Uber will arrive at the exact location.

3) Offline search: Uber is enabling offline search by caching the top points of interest in the city so that riders can enter their destinations in the app without having to wait for a working internet connection.

How it works:

●The feature will automatically work if the app detects limited networks.

4) Request for a Guest: Riders will now be able to book an Uber for another person from from their Uber app no matter where the rider or guest is located. Their guest does not need a smartphone or the Uber app in order to ride.

How it works:

●To use this feature, the person requesting the ride for a guest can simply tap “Where to?” as they normally would, then choose who is riding above their pickup location.

●The rider will receive trip information in an SMS text message -- including ETA, car type, and driver contact information, enabling them to coordinate with the driver directly.

●The driver will see the rider’s name, and be able to contact that person, through a masked number, for privacy.

●The ride will be charged to the requestor’s card on file unless the requestor selects cash as the payment. Rollout of this feature begins in the next few weeks.

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