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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

'Back to the future' as Uber launches phone service

Like taxis before them, Uber has revealed plans to launch a phone hotline as part of a new service designed to get more seniors on board.

Uber has revealed plans to launch a phone-booking ride service in what its top Australian executive admits is "a bit of a back-to-the-future moment".

The tech giant will launch its ride hotline on Tuesday in a bid to appeal to Australians over 65 who do not use ride-sharing services and prefer to book transport over the phone. 

Uber's new service will come less than a year after the company launched a similar scheme in the United States, and has been welcomed by a seniors advocacy group, who said not everyone "is able or comfortable using apps".

Uber Australia and New Zealand managing director Dom Taylor said the company identified some older Australians were not using the service because they were not confident in navigating its app. 

The launch of a phone-booking service could feel like a throwback to the days of ordering taxis before Uber's 2012 launch, he said, but could encourage more people try the service.

"It's a bit of a back-to-the-future moment for us," said.

"There are groups within the community that are less open to using apps for a number of reasons and we can still use our core product to help them move around."

The new 13-UBER service, available between 5am and 8pm, will allow users book a ride over the phone, or set up an Uber account for the first time. 

Users must have a mobile phone to receive a text message with ride details, and will receive a second text message when their driver arrives at their pick-up location. 

Mr Taylor said research conducted by YouGov showed 93 per cent of Australians aged 65 and over felt more confident booking services over the phone, and hoped the hotline could provide a new transport option for them.

"We have seen in the US it is a source of new riders coming to the platform who are less comfortable with apps," he said.

"We know that older Aussies have a lot of appointments and that they are a very social group of people who are still going out for dinners and to the movies."

National Seniors Australia chief executive Chris Grice said he welcomed the move to make the service more accessible, and hoped it would help seniors with specific challenges, such as mobility issues.

"Not everyone is able or comfortable using apps because of privacy, security and storage concerns," he said.

"It's an interesting reflection of society, but a good one, when we welcomed being able to make a phone call and speak with a person to book a service."


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