UPDATED 23:22 EDT / MARCH 17 2020


Uber and Lyft suspend carpool services on coronavirus contagion concerns

The global COVID-19 pandemic is hitting ride-hailing firms hard as both Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. have been forced to suspend some services in North America and Europe.

Uber has suspended its Uber Pool carpooling service in the U.S., Canada, London and Paris on coronavirus contagion concerns. “Our goal is to help flatten the curve of community spread in the cities we serve,” an Uber spokesperson said.  “With that in mind, we are suspending the Uber Pool service in the United States and Canada. We remain in close contact with local leaders and will continue to work with them to discourage non-essential travel.”

In addition, Uber has also announced that it will waive the delivery fee for independently owned restaurants using Uber Eats in the U.S. and Canada as well as allowing users to request that food be left at their doorstep to avoid possible contagion.

Other Uber services such as Uber X remain in operation, including in the San Francisco Bay Area. Although people Silicon Valley and San Francisco are currently under a shelter-in-place order, the directive does not apply to ride-hailing services.

Lyft has likewise suspended its shared rides. “The health and safety of the Lyft community is our top priority, and we’re dedicated to doing what we can to slow the spread of COVID-19,” a Lyft spokeswoman said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the situation closely and base our actions on official guidance.”

How long regular services from both companies will continue as the coronavirus pandemic spreads is another question.

CNET reported that Uber has added an in-app message reminding riders to travel only when necessary. That may be academic given that more and more cities in the U.S. continue to shut down as the virus spreads and eventually those orders may include travel, including the use of ride-hailing apps.

Ride-hailing apps are not alone in the tech transport sector in responding, as scooter-sharing startups also reacting. Both LimeBike Inc. and Bird Rides Inc. have suspended operations in dozens of cities in Europe and the U.S.

The Financial Times reported that Lime is also removing its scooters and bikes from the streets in “large swaths of the U.S. and Canada.” Demand for scooters and bikes is said to have crashed as people hunker down

Photo: Unsplash

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