- Uber is announcing changes to its app at an event in San Francisco Thursday, including encouraging users to take public transportation.
- The move is a bet that users will come back to Uber's app more over time by including the public transit information, Uber's CEO told The Verge in an interview ahead of the event.
- Uber's new app will combine its ride-hailing and food delivery services and offer new safety features.
In an interview on CNBC's "The Exchange," CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told CNBC's Deirdre Bosa that the goal of the redesign is to make Uber "the operating system for your everyday life," a message echoed in a news release on the company's website. While users may already go to Google Maps for information about public transit, Khosrowshahi said he hopes to build an experience similar to what Amazon has built for product search, allowing for users to move through search through transaction on one platform.
The redesign will also combine Uber's ride-hailing and food delivery apps, boost new modes of transportation like scooters and add safety features. Just a couple days earlier, Uber-rival Lyft tweaked its app to make it easier for customers to switch between different modes of transportation, too.
The changes will be prominent as soon as a user opens the app. Users will be prompted to choose to get a ride or order food rather than jumping right into the map screen of Uber's flagship app. Uber will also roll out a new rewards program for frequent food delivery customers and make it easier for drivers to understand what they will earn for their trips.
The redesign comes amid investor skepticism about the company's long-term path to profitability as losses mount even as growth slows. The stock has lost about a quarter of its value over the past three months, and Khosrowshahi told CNBC that Uber understands "markets want growth, but they don't want growth at any cost."
Uber is also challenging a recently passed California law that would force the company to treat drivers as employees rather than contractors. Uber has contended it should be exempt from the law by arguing that its drivers are outside the "usual course of its business," describing its service as "a technology platform for several different types of digital marketplaces." Combining its ride-hailing and food delivery services more closely in a single app could help bolster that argument.
Uber is also adding a whole host of new safety features, including the ability to request a unique four-digit PIN number to make sure riders are getting in the car they ordered, a new button to report safety concerns while driving, and a "text to 911" option if the situation escalates.
The move comes shortly after the company has faced renewed scrutiny over how it handles complaints from riders. A Washington Post investigation found Uber investigators were encouraged to protect the company, rather than complainants who in some cases made sexual assault allegations against drivers for Uber.
Khosrowshahi said on CNBC, "I completely disagree with that report," and that it's "totally off-base." Khosrowshahi said Uber aims to help survivors first and foremost with its safety group.