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Ride-Hailing Businesses Begin to Recover

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Luis Monzon
Luis Monzon
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Uber Technologies Inc.’s global rides business is down 70% from this time last year, a small improvement from its rock-bottom fall during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Though slight, it is an indication that recovery is coming, albeit slowly.

The decline in rides seems to be offset, if partially, by a boom in food delivery. Uber Eats’ gains have more than doubled, and they continue to accelerate, says Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber’s CEO, speaking at a virtual tech conference hosted by Bank of America.

Bloomberg reports that the ride-hailing company intends to continue to look for opportunities in the food delivery market. Khosrowshahi declined to comment on Uber’s proposal to buy Grubhub Inc., which was first reported by Bloomberg last month.

Since being so harshly hit by the global pandemic and the series of subsequent lockdowns and quarantines, the San Francisco-based company has postponed profit targets, eliminated several divisions and sliced about a quarter of its global workforce. Uber had reported a first-ever decline in gross bookings of rides last quarter, saying business was down a crushing 80% in April.

Bolt introduces “Isolated Rides” in South Africa

Like the rest of the travel industry, Uber has been hard hit by the pandemic and restrictions limiting normal activities.

Ride-hailing app Bolt is now offering ‘isolated’ rides with a barrier to protect driver and passengers in South Africa, and luckily for customers, it costs the same as a normal ride.

Gareth Taylor, country manager for Bolt in South Africa, says the app has seen a big increase in demand for rides as the economy has begun opening up again.

“If drivers get exposed that’s their livelihood for two weeks while they self-isolate,” says Taylor. Bolt’s solution to this issue is ‘isolated’ rides. Requested through the app the same way you request a standard ride.

The isolated car has a plastic screen secured between driver and passenger which, according to Bolt, limits the airflow in the vehicle, and block droplets that could carry infection, a major vector for the spread of SARS-CoV-2. Bolt says that, in addition, it is mandatory for drivers and passengers to wear face masks.

“Passengers must sanitize their hands on entering the vehicle, and drivers are required to ventilate and sanitise the car between every trip,” the company says.

The company has rolled out its ‘Isolated’ rides option in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. The company has paid to fit 3,000 vehicles with the barriers. New drivers who want the barrier installed only have to pay R100, says Taylor. He continues to say that the barrier pays for itself soon enough as drivers earn up to 50% more with it within a week.

Customers asking for the isolated rides are typically requesting it on longer trips, which earn more for the driver.

The company says that, initially, most of its customers over this period had been front-line healthcare workers and other essential services personnel whose employers paid for ride-sharing, rather than having their employees risk public transport.

Edited by Luis Monzon
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