- Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced a suite of new safety features for riders and drivers, including a feature that will use smartphone sensors to detect an unusually long stop or a suspected crash. The "Ride Check" feature will send a notification to users’ and drivers’ phones asking if everything is ok, and giving them the option to call for help.
- An in-app emergency button previously available only to riders has now been extended to drivers, including the option to directly contact and share location with 911 through the Uber app. Drivers will also get voice command options so they can interact with the app hands-free while driving.
- To protect riders’ personal information, the driver’s trip history will also no longer record specific pick-up and drop-off addresses, instead only displaying the general area where a trip started and stopped.
Wednesday marked Khosrowshahi’s one-year anniversary as Uber CEO, during which he has made it a priority to upgrade the company’s safety record, which had been a black mark. The company was sued last year after it tried to discredit a woman in India who was raped by an Uber driver, and the company had to make several changes to get its license renewed by the city of London, which had initially rejected the license over safety concerns.
At an event in New York City announcing the new changes, Khosrowshahi said he wants “Uber to be the safest transportation platform on the planet.” The measures have been in the works for quite some time — the company says it has worked on Ride Check for a year (it won’t be rolled out immediately). The feature uses a smartphone’s accelerometer to test for sudden stops or spikes in force, which is technology is similar to that used in GM’s OnStar and by startups like Zendrive and Waze, according to The Verge. Uber has combed through data from past trips to try to determine when a stop signals an emergency, in order to reduce unnecessary notifications.
The location masking feature was first reported in April and comes amid a worldwide reckoning on data storage. The concerns about the company saving location data comes after complaints reported by Gizmodo and others about women who have had drivers on Uber and other ride-hailing apps harassing them. Expect more announcements about safety as Khosrowshahi’s tenure continues — in a blog post, he wrote “we want you to have peace of mind every time you use Uber, and hope these features make it clear that we’ve got your back.”