Rideshare Companies Navigating Pandemic to Keep Drivers and Riders Safe

The industry is making drastic changes to the way you ride, which could alter the future of rideshare as we know it.

NBCUniversal, Inc.

People are still relying on rideshare like Uber, Lyft and other companies to go out, take care of essentials or get to work. Since states started reopening, millions of people across the country have been on the move again.

But the industry is making drastic changes to the way you ride. Experts say the pandemic could be changing the future of rideshare as we know it.

"We knew it was going to be a pretty challenging time in the industry,” said Will Coleman, founder and CEO of Dallas-based rideshare company, Alto.

Alanna Quillen NBC 5
Will Coleman, founder of rideshare company Alto, believes the pandemic will impact the future of the industry, as riders look for safety over convenience.

The company operates in Dallas-Fort Worth, with plans to expand to Houston, Austin and Los Angeles in the future.

He said his team realized as early as February that the novel coronavirus would become a problem and that companies would have to act fast.

"We're doing everything we can to protect our drivers and customers,” said Coleman.

The entire fleet has been outfitted with protective barriers between driver and passenger while hospital-grade HEPA air filters have been installed in the cabin.

"And that's an investment that we're going to continue to make for a long time. We spent $40,000 on barriers alone this month,” said Coleman.

Alanna Quillen NBC 5
Ride-share company, Alto, installed barriers between drivers and passenger in its fleet of vehicles.

Seats and door handles are also sanitized and wiped down between each trip. Every day, the vehicle interiors are treated with a hospital-grade sanitizing mist called PermaSafe.

"The foundation we built the company on, the control that we have over the vehicles and the drivers because the vehicles are ours and the drivers are w-2 employees,” said Coleman. "I think we're really setting the standard for cleanliness in our industry."

But that's harder to do for ride-share giants Uber and Lyft, whose drivers use personal vehicles.

The companies are doing what they can, though. They’ve established a set of safety policies grounded in CDC guidelines.

Uber told NBC 5 that before drivers can accept trips, they have to take a selfie with a mask on using new technology in the app:


Either driver or rider can cancel trips without penalty if someone isn’t following the rules. Riders can also no longer sit in the front.

The company also said it set aside $50 million to buy supplies like masks, disinfectant sprays, sanitizer and gloves for drivers.

Click here to read Uber’s full safety guidelines posted online.

Many of those same guidelines apply for Lyft, which is still looking into the possibility of partitions for vehicles. The company created the Health Safety Program including a Personal Health Certification, which requires all riders and drivers to wear face masks when using Lyft. There is no selfie-technology like Uber but every rider and driver is required to self-certify that they will wear face masks throughout the ride, are symptom-free, and will follow CDC and local health official guidelines related to COVID-19.

The company said it has spent $2.5 million on hundreds of thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer, masks, and disinfectants for drivers at no cost to them. Click here to read Lyft’s full safety policy.

“With guidance from the CDC and local officials, Lyft is taking action to build products and implement policies that help keep riders and drivers safe, as well as empower our community to protect themselves and those around them,” said Angie Westbrock, VP of Global Operations and Head of Lyft’s COVID-19 Response Task Force. “We want the new Health Safety Program to have a meaningful impact and set a new standard for rideshare health safety.”

Both companies said drivers and riders can report people not following the rules and if there are repeat offenders, they can get kicked off the app.

However, with no end date to the pandemic in sight, Coleman believes this new normal could be around to stay.

"For the next several years to come, at the very minimum. People are going to want to trade convenience for safety,” he said. “This is something companies need to take really seriously but it’s also something we all need to take seriously.”

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