Uber is developing tech to ensure drivers wear face masks

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 16: A protestor wears a face mask and gloves as Uber and Lyft drivers with Rideshare Drivers United and the
 Transport Workers Union of America conduct a ‘caravan protest’ outside the California Labor Commissioner’s office amidst the coronavirus pandemic on April 16, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. The drivers called for California to enforce the AB 5 law so that they may qualify for unemployment insurance as the spread of COVID-19 continues. Drivers also called for receiving back wages they say they are owed. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Uber is coming to terms with the new reality imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s using technology to make sure everyone adjusts. The company has confirmed to CNN Business that it’s requiring face masks or similar coverings for both drivers and passengers in countries like the US, and is developing technology to detect whether or not drivers are abiding by those rules. It didn’t elaborate on how the technology would work, although Uber already has a Real Time ID-check feature that periodically asks drivers to take selfies.

A CNN tipster added that Uber was looking into ways to ensure riders wore masks, although privacy concerns clearly make that more difficult.

Uber has already been supplying masks and disinfectants to drivers, but this new policy might be vital if the company hopes to revitalize its business as governments lift their lockdown restrictions. Ridesharing has taken a sharp hit as stay-at-home orders, closed stores and fear of travel have left would-be customers reluctant to go anywhere — especially in the close confines of a car. Masks would not only reduce the chances of infection, but increase trust for both sides.

It might also be necessary for the survival of the company. Lyft recently laid off more than 1,000 employees to adapt to the financial realities of the pandemic, and The Information has claimed that Uber is looking at laying off roughly 20 percent of its staff. Job cuts like these could help the companies weather declines for a while, but they might not be enough if would-be customers remain frightened.