Jakub Jirsák - stock.adobe.com

ServiceNow adds Uber to its pandemic planning tool set

ServiceNow has added an Uber module to its 'Safe Workplace suite,' a pandemic planning tool set. The idea is to help employees return to the office.

ServiceNow is linking up with Uber for Business to add ride-sharing to its suite of workplace safety tools for use in pandemic planning. The intent is to give employers a means to offer transportation services directly to their employees.

The Uber module is in ServiceNow's "Safe Workplace suite," a set of pandemic planning tools designed to help bring employees back to the office. It includes contact tracing, readiness surveys, employee health screening and personal protective equipment inventory management. Uber for Business is the ride-sharing firm's business-to-business arm.

Employers can set corporatewide Uber policies with the tool. An employee books a trip via an integration with Uber's app. The employer can use the tool to either pay for the employee's trip or subsidize it. The app can also stagger arrivals so that employees don't turn up to office lobbies all at once. Employers can also set times when the ride-sharing tool is available to employees, among other functions.

Before COVID-19, corporate integration with ride-share-type services were already in place. Workday Inc., for instance, was already investing since at least 2016 in San Francisco carpooling service Scoop Technologies Inc.

But COVID-19 has disrupted transportation. Some bus and rail services have reduced hours of operation. Some people just want to avoid mass transit. In general, this is creating demand for alternatives, especially for essential industries, according to Uber. Industries such as healthcare "need to operate seamlessly -- they need to get their employees to show up on time," said Ronnie Gurion, global head of Uber for Business.

"Every company has to think through, 'How do I reliably get my employees back to the office and how much do I want to lean in and help them think through those options?'" Gurion said.

Pandemic planning and transportation

Some people will use bicycles and others will drive their own cars, but employers may not have enough parking to accommodate an increase of drivers, Gurion said. Transit agencies, "are doing a lot of great work to make those rides as safe as possible," he said.

To address COVID-19 concerns, Uber recently announced a series of safety measures, including requiring drivers to take selfies to show they are wearing a mask.

Every company has to think through, 'How do I reliably get my employees back to the office?'
Ronnie GurionGlobal head, Uber for Business

There is anecdotal evidence that "micromobility" options such as bikes or scooters are on the rise, said Susan Shaheen, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California at Berkeley and co-director of the Transportation Sustainability Research Center.

Reasons people are increasingly electing to use micromobility options may include "concerns about riding in vehicles with people they do not know," she said.

During the pandemic recovery period, it is possible that travelers may be more comfortable returning to carpooling and other ride-sharing type services before returning to public transit, Shaheen said, but more research will be needed to understand the dynamics.

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