Uber — which has drawn criticism in the past for its issues with rider safety — has just launched one of its new features meant to provide riders with a useful tool if they find themselves in danger.
The company has officially debuted its in-app 911 calling feature, which can allow a rider in trouble to call 911 directly from the app at their discretion. Though the company announced this upcoming feature in April, in a post called “Getting serious about safety,” Uber actually launched the safety option today, as reported by TechCrunch.
Riders can tap the safety icon in the corner of the app to call 911 during a ride. The driver will not be alerted about the call, as safety issues sometimes stem from the Uber drivers themselves.
[Don’t just rely on an app’s features — use your head and check out our Security Tips For Uber And Lyft Passengers.]
The company also has seven test markets in which it is currently using automatic location sharing with 911 dispatchers: Denver, Charleston, S.C., Nashville, Chattanooga and Tri-Cities, Tenn., Naples, Fla. and Louisville, Ky. This enables dispatchers to see the moving location of the caller. (The 911 feature should be rolling out to all U.S. riders, however, with similar features coming for drivers and international riders in the future.)
The 911 feature is part of the Uber app’s new “Safety Center.” The Verge notes that the center also includes information “about the driving screening process, insurance protections, and community guidelines.”
Uber has also made its new Trusted Contacts safety feature more prominent within the app — you can share your trip with a friend or family member as you’re traveling, so they can keep tabs on where you’re at, and how much longer you have to go.
Will It Help?
It’s good that Uber is taking steps to improve rider safety, but there are still some questions about the effectiveness of the new features. If a driver is putting a rider in danger, that driver would still obviously be able to hear the 911 call. And it’s also tricky, to say the least, for dispatchers to track down an incident that’s occurring while the car is still moving.
But the features may better serve other types of incidents. “Most of the scenarios that we see happening in an Uber are generally related to road accidents,” Uber Director of Product Management Sachin Kansal told TechCrunch.