Asia-Pacific Mar 27, 2017
MACAU: Worldwide ride-hailing company Uber is launching “Uber-Assist” in Macau today, a new function of its well-known mobile app.
Designed to provide additional assistance to seniors and people with disabilities, Uber-Assist pairs passengers with “specialized” driver-partners. According to Uber Macau general manager Trasy Lou Walsh, these drivers have received special intensive training in meeting the needs of passengers with disabilities.
“The program serves several kinds of people, like those facing difficulty in walking or vision disability, people with disabilities, hearing disabilities, older people and pregnant ladies,” Walsh said during a meeting with the media.
To create “UberAssist,” the company partnered with social service organization Caritas Macau, which is also the charity outreach arm of the Diocese of Macau. The institution helped Uber design its specialized training course.
Macau has joined the list of countries and territories that offer this kind of service, which was already available in the neighboring SAR of Hong Kong.
Walsh said the idea of bringing this program to Macau was “based on a census report from 2011 that stated there were over 12,000 disabled people in Macau.”
“Through various associations, we [heard] that it is very hard to get them out of their homes and around Macau. We really hope to help them to achieve this,” she continued.
Walsh explained that the service in Macau will operate differently from its Hong Kong counterpart, with a specific button to be added to the ride- sharing app instead of requiring a promotional code.
“UberAssist” will charge the same rates as Uber X, which is among the cheaper Uber services. 100 out of the region’s 3,000 registered Uber drivers will participate in the program when it launches, but Uber Macau claims it will be able to increase the number of “Uber- Assist” drivers if needed.
“We would like to see if 100 drivers would be sufficient to take care of persons with disabilities in Macau. That’s what we are trying to find out. If we realize that the demand is really high, we probably have to train more drivers,” said Walsh, adding that the service will undergo a trial period of three to six months in order to collect passenger feedback and other data.
To improve data collection, the company will provide free rides to several associations representing people with different needs and disabilities.
“We are also offering a number of free rides to several associations in order for them to try the service and provide us feedback and opinions on how to improve,” Walsh said.
When questioned by the Times on how to match passengers’ needs with the appropriate driver, Walsh responded that all drivers are fully trained and possess the same skill set.
Furthermore, she said, the Uber service requires a return call to the passenger to confirm the ride and pick-up point, during which “the passenger and driver can communicate those needs.”
“During training, Caritas helped a lot by providing us a map of locations that makes it easier for drivers to pick up passengers; for example, those with vision disabilities or in wheelchairs,” she said.
She added that the training course included instructions “on how to fold different types of wheelchairs, how to help persons with disabilities into the car [and] simple sign language to communicate with people with hearing disabilities, as well as how to pick up people with vision disabilities.”
Walsh said the training course has been ongoing since last June and that each driver must participate in a minimum of 10 training sessions to qualify as an “UberAssist” driver.