Uber launches feature in U.S. to let customers reserve rides in advance

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FILE PHOTO: An Uber sticker is seen on Margaret Bordelon's car in Lafayette, Louisiana

By Tina Bellon

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc on Tuesday said it would roll out a new feature in the United States that will allow customers to reserve scheduled rides up to 30 days in advance.

The feature marks an expansion of Uber’s traditional on-demand model and adds to previous initiatives that allow passengers to select drivers who accept pets or offer car seats.

Uber is seeing only a slow recovery of its U.S. rides business amid the coronavirus pandemic, with trips in the United States and Canada down 59% in the third quarter compared to last year.

Uber shares on Monday surged on the prospect of a coronavirus vaccine.

Company executives said the new Reserve feature was a response to customer surveys and focus groups that showed a need for an option to book rides in advance for appointments, such as doctor visits.

Uber already offers customers the option to schedule rides, but executives said the new Reserve feature also allows riders to favor specific drivers and provides $50 in Uber credit should a reserved ride not arrive on time.

Scheduled rides have seen a surge in demand since the beginning of the pandemic in March, said Uber Reserve Product Lead Geoff Tam-Scott.

“On-demand is still going to continue to be our bread and butter… but a lot of riders have told us the appeal of the Reserve experience is create your trip and then don’t worry about it,” Tam-Scott said.

Uber said it will release the feature in more than 20 U.S. cities in the coming weeks, including in New York, Chicago, Miami, Houston and Seattle.

Riders pay an $8 to $12 reservation fee, which is included in the upfront price locked in when booking. Reserve initially is limited to Uber’s premium car segments, but will later expand to other price ranges and rural areas.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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