In a move that signals its intent to win over Los Angeles's enormous Latino population, Uber announced Tuesday that it will now allow users to request Spanish-speaking drivers.
“We’ve heard from riders and driver-partners alike that they’d like the Uber experience to reflect the multilingual aspects of the multicultural communities in which we operate,” read an email sent to Uber users in Los Angeles.
An Uber spokesperson said that the program, dubbed UberESPAÑOL, was launched after both drivers and users requested the service. UberESPAÑOL had a successful trial run in San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson before launching in LA, and Uber said that “hundreds” of their drivers in Los Angeles volunteered to be part of UberESPAÑOL. (Uber drivers are able to opt-in to the program if they’re fluent in Spanish, even if they speak little English.)
Los Angeles is home to the nation's largest Spanish-speaking population. About 39.5 percent of the population in Los Angeles speaks Spanish or Spanish Creole at home, according to the latest Census data. And allowing drivers who aren't fluent in English to drive for Uber could mean more part-time jobs for the city's monolingual Spanish-speaking population, who have only a few options when it comes to finding work.
The service may also be a game-changer for domestic workers in Los Angeles, many of them who ride public buses to cliffside and hillside homes for work. About 59 percent of bus riders in the L.A. are Latino, according to the latest Metro survey.
For now, the Spanish-language option is limited to UberX, the company's low-cost option. But it could expand in the future, if it proves popular enough.