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Uber Now Takes Ride Requests Without the App

Rides can be booked by dialing the phone

spinner image an illustration showing a phone with the call icon surrounded by different colored cars

Not everyone is comfortable using a smartphone app to summon a ride to the grocery store, doctor’s office or to visit friends and family.

With older adults in mind, Uber, the market-leading rideshare company, is rolling out a solution. Uber rides can now be booked by calling a toll-free number instead of using its app, making it easier for those who struggle with the software app or don’t own a smartphone, the company’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced at a product event Wednesday.

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Uber conducted months of testing in places where older riders gather and spoke directly with those it expects to use the service.

“Not everyone is comfortable using a phone or an app to call an Uber, like my mother in law,” he said. “And for her we have a product that's incredibly easy to use. It’s 833-USE-UBER.”

​Uber has about 75 percent of the rideshare market in the United States, far ahead of chief rival Lyft, which has about a quarter share, according to research from YipitData that CNN Business cited.​

spinner image two phone screens showing uber ride confirmation
Examples of text messages sent after requesting a ride and confirming a trip.

Customers can dial 833-USE-UBER (873-8237) to speak with an Uber agent in English or Spanish to request or reserve a ride. The service is available 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. ET nationwide.​ ​Once a trip request has been accepted, the rider will receive a text message with the driver’s name, picture, license plate number and estimated time of arrival. A follow-up text message will be sent once the driver arrives at the pickup location. This means that the rides cannot be requested using a landline.

About 1.3 percent of all adults live in households that have a landline phone only, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey spanning July to December 2022. About a quarter have landlines but also access to a cellphone.

​If a customer does not have an Uber account, an agent will create one for them. Payment is provided over the phone via credit card. ​ ​The service comes with a $5 fee when requesting an UberX, the most basic ride option Uber offers. Typically, cars are sedans or SUVs that can seat up to four passengers.

​The more expensive ride options don’t have a service fee. This includes UberXL, which guarantees a larger vehicle that can seat up to six passengers. Uber Black matches riders with top-rated drivers in luxury vehicles. ​

In 2020, Uber conducted a pilot program for 833-USE-UBER in Arizona and Florida. In 2021 Lyft, Uber’s main competitor, introduced a similar service named Call a LyftRide, targeting older adults and those without access to the Lyft app in select cities in Florida. ​ ​

Lyft did not immediately respond to an AARP inquiry regarding its programs for older adults, caregivers and people with disabilities.​ ​About 600,000 older adults stop driving each year, according to USAging, the national association for Area Agencies on Aging. Providing accessible transportation methods allows them to live independent lives longer.

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