Updated: May 23, 2020 6:00:39 pm
After almost two months of suspended services, the two most popular ride-hailing platforms– Ola Cabs and Uber announced this week that they would be resuming services in most Indian cities in the coming days, as permitted under the guidelines of lockdown 4.0. Ensuring the safety of both drivers and passengers is a primary concern for both companies. However, preventing the spread of the virus is only possible if the users are being extra careful and following essential regulations. The passengers must abide by the following:
*Always wear a mask before getting into your cab. This is essential to prevent transmission of the virus to the driver, in case you are an asymptomatic carrier.
*Do not sit on the front seat. The government mandates cab users to occupy only the back seats while travelling.
*Handle your own luggage. Prevent unnecessary indirect contact by asking your driver to load your luggage into the cab, as surface fomites can act as a carrier of the virus.
*Always sanitize your hands before entering and exiting the vehicle. If possible, it is recommended to sanitize the door handle of the cab too when you exit, to prevent chances of transmission to the next passenger.
As far as the drivers go, they also have an important role to play to mitigate the spread of this deadly virus. They must ensure the following:
*The cab must be properly disinfected after each ride, to prevent indirect transmission from one passenger and to the other. Impeccable hygiene standard must be maintained within the vehicle.
*Government guidelines restrict the maximum passengers allowed in a cab to two. The drivers should ensure that this is strictly followed, and that both passengers occupy the back seats.
*Pooling services, such as Ola Share and Uber Pool are still discontinued. No driver should violate these in any situation whatsoever.
*The driver must use the vehicle’s air conditioner only in fresh-air mode. Other modes should be avoided to ensure clean air within the confines of the cab.
The two cab aggregators have also released a list of policies they would be following and new features in their app as measures to ensure safety against COVID-19. An official statement by Uber introduced the following novel additions to the app:
*Go Online Checklist: This is a virtual checklist for both, the driver and the passenger, in which they have to confirm that they have taken the necessary precautions (wearing a mask, sanitizing their hands etc.) before they can go online and accept a ride or book a cab respectively.
*Automatic Mask Verification: A new technology introduced by Uber will ask all drivers to take a selfie with a mask on before they can start accepting trips from riders. Drivers will be able to accept trips only when it is verified that they are wearing a mask.
*Updated Cancellation Policy: The terms of cancellation have been updated and a passenger can now cancel a trip if he/ she feels that sufficient precautions are not been taken or the driver is not wearing a proper mask. New options have also been added to the feedback prompt, allowing users to address their problems and concerns.
*Health Safety Education: Uber has partnered with a lot of global and local public health authorities to send health safety tips to all its riders and drivers before they begin a trip. Additional government directives, such as the disallowance of passenger on the front seat have also been mandated by the organisation.
*Notification to replenish PPE kits: To improve safety standards, Uber has distributed millions of PPE kits to its drivers, including 3 million masks, 200,000 disinfectants and 1.2 million shower caps. It has also introduced safety education video courses for its drivers. A new in-app feature has also been introduced to notify drivers to replenish their PPE kits after a certain predetermined number of trips. QR Code will be used to allow the driver to pick up the PPE kits from a convenient location.
Ola Cabs has also enhanced its safety protocols and has begun services over 160 cities. Their organisation has also taken several initiatives similar to Uber, to ensure the safety of its drivers and passengers. These include compulsory mask-usage, compulsory disinfection and sanitization of vehicles post-trips, limiting seat usage to only back seats and following Ola’s ‘10 Steps to a Safer Ride’ initiative which lists a variety of safety precautions.
Cab aggregators such as Uber and Ola Cabs were among the worst hit due to the severe downturn in demand during the lockdown. With partial relaxations from the government in lockdown 4.0, resuming services in the times of COVID-19 is sure to be a highly challenging task.
Written by Shubhang Gopal, an intern with indianexpress.com.
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