Uber is rolling out new features today to ease friction during the rider pickup process. As a global app available in more than 700 cities, Uber is frequently used by international travelers for the convenience and familiarity it offers. But language barriers can still cause problems, which is why Uber is now launching an in-app translation tool to ensure drivers and riders can communicate effectively.
While drivers and riders are already able to set their preferred languages in the app, and drivers are required to include the languages that they speak in their profile, this new feature is designed to bypass the language barrier altogether. Whatever language the driver uses to send a message can be translated by the rider with the tap of a button, thanks to a Google Translate integration. This works across more than 100 languages and is also available in the driver’s app for two-way conversation.
“We anticipate this being most helpful for drivers whose primary language isn’t English, and for riders [who] are traveling abroad outside the U.S,” Uber wrote in a blog post.
While the Uber app is broadly set up to facilitate pickups without the need for text-based communications, there are many scenarios in which it may be necessary to chat with a driver in real time — whether to communicate a delay or a slight change in pickup location. That’s why Uber launched in-app messaging a few years ago to replace the older text messaging option.
Uber is also launching an app redesign that further clarifies a ride’s arrival status, including rotating “actionable” notifications that show the minutes remaining until arrival, pickup location, directions for where to walk, and details about anyone else being picked up en route.
“We built this so riders can feel even more confident tracking the status of their trip, in addition to monitoring a driver’s progress within the Uber app map screen,” the company wrote.
Uber has recently introduced a number of new tools to improve its rider app. The San Francisco-based company recently revealed that it would start using hyper-local weather data from ClimaCell to improve ETA estimates, and it’s piloting a new feature that allows customers to request pet-friendly cars. Uber also announced this month that it was opening to telephone bookings in the U.S.
As Uber battles widening losses in the push for profitability, it needs to make its service accessible to as many people as possible, and translations and clearer notifications should go some way toward achieving that goal.
Translations and the new redesign will be rolling out to Uber users globally “in the coming days,” according to a company statement.