For drivers, Uber made sure to caution them against texting while driving, and should only message riders when stopped. "How do I know if my SMS was received?", he said.
For drivers, chats are read aloud, and one tap to the app will send a "thumbs up" confirmation to their ride so they can stay focused on the road.
Uber's new messaging feature means you'll never have to leave the app when hailing a ride. Nevertheless, Uber is trying to fix the nuisance with a new in-app chat feature. The update, which is being pushed out to the Uber app from today, shifts conversations that would until now have been held over phone calls or text messages to a new, in-app chat client.
"Every great ride starts with the pick-up", Uber's Jeremy Lermitte wrote in a blog post on the new feature. That includes helping riders and drivers connect should they need to get in touch with one another to solve for things like road closures, or to just provide information on their exact location. VoIP calls could come to the app next, and messaging could also be added to UberEATS.
This switch will get rid of the need for Uber to hold on to your cell-phone number, and for the app to navigate the complexities of anonymizing any personal contact info when sending it using SMS or making calls to your driver. Seeing as this is most likely for convenience and privacy, it's likely that's not going to be the case.
The built-in messaging feature makes a lot of sense when you think about it, and Lermitte says that it's something Uber can offer without requiring significant ongoing overhead to maintain. "That's especially true in some of our key markets like Brazil and India".
Uber has always supported contacting a driver once a auto has been assigned, though it's relied on methods outside of the app to actually do so. The driver can also be the first to send a message, but their app will strongly advise them only to do so while stationary. Now, all they need is to connect to a Wi-Fi connection, which most airports already have, to contact their drivers.