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story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this May 10, 2019, file photo a banner for Uber is draped on the front of the New York Stock Exchange before the world's largest ride-hailing service holds its initial public offering. Uber is letting passengers request a more comfortable ride if they’re willing to pay. The ride-hailing giant launched “comfort” rides Tuesday, July 9. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Uber is letting passengers tell their driver in advance that they'd like a little less conversation, and more legroom, if those passengers are willing to pay.

The ride-hailing giant launched "comfort" rides in dozens of cities Tuesday. Riders are guaranteed 36 inches of legroom in "newer" cars — meaning those less than five years old — and they can request a preferred air temperature. Riders can also use the app to tell drivers they don't want to chat, avoiding what some consider an awkward exchange.

Uber is responding to requests from business travelers and others who said they just want to work or rest quietly when they're on their way to the airport.

"It's a way to set up an expectation up front it takes some guess work out of the process," said Aydin Ghajar, senior product manager at Uber.

In the early days of ride-hailing, when drivers for Uber and its main U.S. rival Lyft began picking up riders in their personal cars, riders were often chatty, asking the drivers lots of questions.

"It was so new and innovative that a lot of people were curious about other things they (drivers) did," said Harry Campbell, founder of The Rideshare Guy, a blog and online community for drivers. "Over the years, it's gotten more transactional."

Uber rolled out a "quiet mode" for Uber Black — its premium car service — in May, which left some drivers feeling like robots.

"Some drivers like it, they don't want to have to look at social cues," Campbell said. "Other drivers feel that it's a little dehumanizing. I do feel like in our society, everything is turning into an app, and we're losing the lost art of conversation."

Comfort rides cost 20 percent to 40 percent more for time and distance charges than standard Uber X rides.

The move could help Uber boost revenue, which could nudge the company closer to profitability.

"I think it would help maybe to boost those numbers up a little bit and maybe give some of the analysts on Wall Street something more to hang their hat on to remain bullish on the stock, based on the fact that the company still is not profitable," said Daniel Morgan, vice president of Synovus Trust Company.

Uber has yet to turn a profit and lost $1 billion in the first quarter of 2019. Executives have said it could take years to make money.

It's unknown whether the benefits offered by Uber Comfort will be enough to convince riders to cough up more cash. A five-year-old car is not really "newer," it's more "middle aged," Morgan said. And at 6 feet, 5 inches tall, the additional legroom wouldn't really be enough for Morgan — but it might be sufficient for people who are average height, he said.

"They might try it once and see if it's that much more of an improvement and worth it," Morgan said. "If they can't deliver it and it's not that much more comfortable, then it's like well, I'm not really going to pay up for it."

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