Lyft will distribute 60,000 vehicle shields to drivers to help protect them from the spreading coronavirus.
The rest of its 2 million drivers will have the option to purchase the partitions, angering some drivers groups.
Lyft will not make a profit on the for-sale barriers, which the CDC first recommended in April, it said.
Lyft — and its main competitor Uber — saw a dramatic decline in rides requests as shelter-in-place orders in the US and internationally brought travel to a halt starting in March.
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Your next Lyft ride might feel more like a taxi ride from days gone by.
The company said on Friday it would distribute some 60,000 vehicle partition shields to its most-active drivers as a protection against the coronavirus and begin selling the custom-made protective barriers to other drivers later this summer.
The ride-hailing company began in May to require both passengers and drivers to wear a mask during trips and said it had provided North American drivers with more than 150,000 sanitizing products and masks since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Lyft began designing the semi-rigid partition shields, made out of a polycarbonate material, several months ago and has since piloted it with a group of ride-hail drivers to solicit feedback, a spokeswoman said.
“It was critical to us that the design met the needs of rideshare drivers specifically, accommodated a wide range of vehicle models, could be self-installed and easily removed, and could be produced at a price point far lower than what is currently available in the market,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.
The move to sell the barriers to drivers who didn’t receive one in the first distribution round angered some driver representation groups, who argue the protective equipment should be free. Lyft says it won’t take any commission on the sales.
Lyft will sell the partitions for about $50 at production cost and without a markup, the company said. Vehicle partition shields are available online from various manufacturers, with prices ranging from $50 to more than $100.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued coronavirus guidelines in April to professional drivers and recommended the installation of a partition between a driver and passengers.
As of March 2019, Lyft had nearly 2 million drivers in the United States and Canada, where it operates. But regulators and analysts estimate the number of active drivers has dropped significantly during the pandemic, when ridership plummeted because of sweeping stay-at-home orders.
Lyft said in June that trip requests on its platform rose around 26% from the low point in April but were still some 70% under prior-year levels.
(Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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