Uber is adding the ability to book rides for other people. Going forward, any time you set a pickup location that is away from where you actually are, the app will ask if you or someone else is taking the ride. From there, you can pick from a list of contacts (mom, dad, grandpa, grandma, etc.) and set a destination. Uber will then send that person a text message with the information about the ride, including the driver’s name, phone number, license plate number, who is paying, and a link to track the car.
The company announced the news in a blog post that focuses heavily on explaining how people could use the feature to book rides for older family members, especially those who don’t have a smartphone. But it appears that the rider at least needs some kind of cellphone in order to receive the text message with the driver’s information, and Uber’s example image shows the text being received on an iPhone. So it’s not necessarily just for elderly people who can’t understand Uber’s app.
Uber has toyed with similar ideas in the past. Last summer, we learned that the ride-hailing service was experimenting with a phone dispatch system in Florida. It also launched a “family profiles” feature early last year, where one person can pay for all the rides taken by a group of people, similar to the family plans offered by wireless carriers.
Both of those ideas were tested with limited launches, though. Uber says this new feature is launching today in “over 30 countries,” making for a much wider rollout.