Many voices have raised concerns over the safety of Uber riders and in response, the company is rolling out a few design features to enhance passenger safety. This is a welcome announcement, especially coming only a month after Uber’s much-publicized self-driving car tragedy, killing a passerby and forcing Uber to end their self-driving tests in Arizona. New in-app features, as well as updated driver screening measures, are set to improve the Uber safety experience.
For starters, the Uber app will get a safety center, a dedicated space where riders can get law enforcement tips, information about how drivers are selected, insurance policy information, and community guidelines. The app will also feature a new “Trusted Contacts” feature that will allow users to pick up to five friends and family members. Those chosen will receive the user’s trip details, making it easier for those closest around us to know we’ve gotten to our destination safely. The feature also comes with a night time only sharing mode for those who only want to share evening ride information.
Perhaps the simplest but most crucial new passenger safety feature in the Uber app is the inclusion of the 911 button. This emergency button will connect passengers directly to 911 and show authorities their real-time location so that dispatchers can access crucial information quickly. The Uber 911 feature won’t be limited just to passengers – drivers should expect to see it too. The 911 Integration feature will pilot in selected cities and work with RapidSOS to directly share the passenger’s location with the authorities as soon as they use the 911 button.
As for the updated driver screening measures, Uber plans to more rerun background checks annually and proactively search through new criminal offenses. According to their post about the updates, Uber said they “will go beyond annual reruns and be among the first to invest in technology that rapidly identifies new offenses. Using data sources that cover most new criminal offenses, we will receive notifications when a driver is involved and leverage this information to help continuously enforce our screening standards. We will investigate and verify any potentially disqualifying information from public records, such as a new and pending charge for a DUI, to ensure the driver is still eligible to use Uber.” In addition, Uber has hired former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to be the Chairman for their Safety Advisory Board.
All the updates will be deployed this summer in the U.S. and, if all goes well, they could get pushed worldwide.