Uber is rolling out new features to make it easier for people of all ages to access its ride-hailing service, including an option that will let teens under the age of 18 ride alone for the first time.
At its annual product event on Wednesday, Uber unveiled a new teen accounts feature, which allows parents and caretakers to hail rides for their kids, if they’re between the ages of 13 to 17, and then monitor them remotely through the app.
The new option rolls out on May 22 in more than a dozen metro areas in the United States and Canada – including New York City, Atlanta, Dallas and Houston – with plans to launch in more cities in the coming weeks and months.
Previously, those under the age of 18 were not allowed to use Uber without being accompanied in the car by an adult.
Uber’s move comes at a time when tech companies, and social media firms in particular, are increasingly under scrutiny for the impact their products can have on teens.
At Wednesday’s event, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi framed the option as helping families “manage the craziness” of juggling getting their kids around and stressed the company’s safety features to ensure that “parents can have peace of mind.”
The new accounts include a unique PIN number that teens will have to give to their driver before embarking and in-app audio recording of the ride. A live trip-tracking feature also lets a parent follow the trips’ progress via the Uber app. And parents can contact the driver directly during the trip as well as contact Uber’s support team.
Khosrowshahi also said that “only experienced and highly-rated drivers will be eligible to complete trips with teens.”
Uber said it consulted Safe Kids Worldwide, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting children, with the development of the teens account offering.
Uber also said Wednesday that it is launching a nationwide phone number for anyone without the app to be able to use its service, a move likely aimed at helping older Americans who might not be used to navigating a smartphone.
Starting on Wednesday, US-based customers can now dial 1-833-USE-UBER (1-833-873-8237), a toll free number, to speak with an agent in English or Spanish and request a ride on demand or reserve one for a future trip.
Uber has reported strong growth in recent quarters, defying a slump that has hit much of the tech sector in recent months. Uber’s business, which diversified into meal delivery services ahead of the pandemic, has also so-far fared better at bouncing back from the health crises than its chief US rival, Lyft.