Uber Australia on Tuesday announced a batch of new functions on its platform, primarily for the benefit of drivers.
However, one feature that will also interest passengers is what the company is calling Intercom, which will enable instant messaging between drivers and riders.
At an event in Sydney in front of 60 of the highest star-rated Uber drivers in the country, Uber NSW and ACT general manager Henry Greenacre said that “one of the biggest frustrations” for drivers is picking up and dropping off passengers.
“This is especially true when someone has an overseas phone number or if the instructions get lost in translation,” he said. “So today we’re launching a totally anonymous, in-app chat platform called Intercom.”
Greenacre said that using Intercom, drivers will be able to communicate with riders regardless of their level of English.
“You will be able to send a rider a text message through the app and it will automatically be translated to the language of that rider,” he said.
“This is a massive win given how many international tourists we have in and around Sydney. The other important thing is that it’s all within the app, so it doesn’t matter if the rider has an overseas number.”
An Uber Australia spokesperson later confirmed to Business Insider that while the Intercom feature is available now, the translation capabilities are still to come.
“It’s something we’d like to introduce in the future, but no immediate plans,” said the spokesperson.
The event also saw the introduction of allowing passengers to correct their pickup pin placements to make it easier for drivers to see them and the ability for riders to send compliments to drivers after a trip. Drivers can also now be paid their wages at any time (called Flex Pay) and make time-based specifications of destinations that they want to get to after dropping riders off.
Last week, Business Insider reported that a 55 cent booking fee would be charged for all Uber rides from Friday and the minimum fare for all the mainland capitals will go up, some by as much as 40%.