FILE PHOTO: A screen displays the company logo for Uber Technologies Inc. on the day of it’s IPO at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 10, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc on Friday said it would offer rides by the hour in some U.S. cities, a feature aimed at helping Americans with essential trips during the coronavirus pandemic.

The option, which is already available in a handful of cities in Australia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East, will cost $50 per hour. Fares for regular Uber rides are generally based on the level of demand and the trip distance.

Uber said it decided to expand the hourly feature to the U.S. after riders requested an option for extended trips during the pandemic to avoid exposure to different drivers and vehicles when taking multiple trips in a confined time period.

The company said it expected the option to be used for trips to grocery stores, pharmacies and doctors appointments, but would monitor use going forward.

Hourly bookings will be available in Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Orlando, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Tacoma and Seattle beginning June 2, with expansions planned in the following weeks.

Ride-hailing trips, which generate the bulk of Uber’s revenue, dropped 80% globally in April, but the company earlier this month said demand was slowly recovering.

Since May 18, Uber requires riders and drivers around the world to wear face coverings or masks and allows both parties to cancel trips and report users who do not comply with the measure. Repeated failure to comply can lead to account deactivation for both riders and drivers.

Reporting by Tina Bellon in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler

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