Uber wants businesses to do away with shuttle buses for customers, and has launched a new service aimed at making it easier for companies to hail cars on other people’s behalf. Called Uber Central, the software lets users request cars even for people who don’t have accounts with the ride-hailing company.
Here’s how it works: company employees who have access to the Uber Central console input a customer’s name and phone number, along with their pickup and drop-off address. After that, they can request a ride from Uber’s menu of services, or save the data as a draft for easier use later.
The Uber Central dashboard, which is available worldwide, also lets employees track the status of rides. It’s built on top of Uber for Business, a version of the ride-hailing platform that has been built for use by companies rather than individuals.
Uber for Business is a move by the ride-hailing company to provide rides for business customers that are then charged back to the company those people work for. That program has been running for a few years and has over 65,000 customers.
Using Uber for Business, administrators can set limits on which approved users can request rides from selected services at selected times. That way, users can’t “accidentally” expense a ride to go out clubbing on a Saturday night. Those same settings trickle down to Uber Central, too, so that console operators are restricted to only the settings administrators allow.
The ride-hailing company will send businesses a bill every month for the rides taken using Uber for Business. Those companies that want to pass the cost on to their guests will be able to view information about ride cost from Uber Central, plus download that data using an API or as a CSV file that gets compiled daily.
Drivers won’t be told ahead of time that they’ll be driving someone on behalf of a business. At the end of a ride, drivers will review the business, and vice versa, rather than reviewing individual riders. Businesses using the service have access to a set of people at Uber who are supposed to help with any issues that may come up as well.
Uber will be keeping an eye on businesses’ use of Central to make sure that they’re not causing problems for the network of drivers who work for the ride-hailing company, and adjust the program as needed. The company especially wants to make sure that businesses don’t call a ride too far ahead of time and then force drivers to wait for their passengers to show up.
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