Uber will soon allow users to book a ride without smartphones

Uber is working on technologies that will allow people in India without smartphones or in low bandwidth areas to book a ride. On the cards are several innovations for India, which is the second largest market for the ride-hailing firm, Daniel Graf, vice-president and global head of product at Uber told ET in an interview. 
“We are making a big investment in India which could also help other markets with similar conditions… Many areas get 3G or 2G connectivity or even less than that. How do you make it work there, this is an android dominant market and many of the phones are 2012 or older, some folks don’t have a smartphone but they should be able to get an Uber too,” said Graf. He added that the company, which already has 1,000 people In India, is making a “strong commitment” to grow the talent in India. 
Graf who is on his first visit to the country, said that Uber is investing heavily towards making the trips through the ride-sharing app more reliable and affordable. In the works are technology changes that will make predicting the arrival time more accurate despite constant changes to the infrastructure and traffic bottlenecks along making the pricing more stable.
“There are stakeholders for Uber – drivers and riders and we want to create a ride which is reliable and affordable. Reliable means low ETA, but that’s not always the case. We have a long way to go to make it more reliable,” said Graf. He added that apart from making it affordable, the company’s goal is to make the ride safer. He added that for instance, Uber has introduced features that can sense if a driver has not mounted the phone and is holding it in his hand. “If the driver has accelerated or braked too aggressively, we can detect that too with the sensors,” said Graf.
Despite the management reshuffle at Uber recently which led to the founder Travis Kalanick being replaced by Dara Khosrowshahi as its CEO, Graf said that India continues to be a focus market. On being asked about Soft-Bank’s proposed investment in Uber which may create conditions for a merger with Ola, Graf said, “It’s not about Ola or Uber, it’s about transportation in general. We are (ride sharing) at low single-digit of the overall transportation opportunity, even if there were more players, there are so many opportunities in the market.” As far as some features offered by its rivals are concerned such as booking outstation trips or offering rentals in concerned, Graf said that the company currently focused on its priorities which is to make the rides more reliable, affordable and safer.

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