Uber on Thursday said that the company is zooming its focus on safety for both drivers and riders. The company announced that it is introducing a range of new safety features for riders and drivers, including RideCheck, a feature that detects trip irregularities, and audio recording, which will be rolled out as a pilot in India later this year.
The RideCheck feature will enable Uber to flag certain trip irregularities, like long, unexpected stops or midway drops that might, and in some rare cases, indicate an increased safety risk, especially for women.
If an anomaly is detected, Uber will initiate a 'RideCheck' by reaching out to both the rider and the driver. This marks the first step by Uber to proactively reach out to users during a trip and offer tools they may need to get help.
Uber will also be piloting audio recording in the Indian market in 2020. Once introduced, a rider or driver partner will have the choice to record audio through their phone while on-trip, the company said in an event.
When a trip ends, the user has the option to report a safety incident and submit the audio recording, it added.
To ensure privacy, the audio file shall be encrypted and the user cannot listen in to the stored recording on their device, but may choose to send it to Uber’s customer support agents who will use the audio to help better understand an incident and take appropriate actions.
Only Uber will have access to the audio once the user submits it.
Another feature is a safety PIN – a trip verification feature to help ensure riders are getting into the car they are matched with through the app.
Riders will receive a four-digit PIN that they can provide verbally to their driver who can start the trip in the app only when the correct PIN is entered. This is similar to OTP.
In addition to the PIN, Uber announced it’s working on advanced technologies that will, in the future, use ultrasound waves to automatically transmit the safety PIN for verifying rides.
Sachin Kansal, Senior Director of Global Safety Products, Uber, said,
“Over the past three years, we have introduced several features to enhance safety standards on our platform. Today, we raise the bar again as we work towards introducing audio recording in India as a pilot this year and roll-out the RideCheck feature for long stop and midway drop-offs. We have been piloting and refining these features in different markets globally to ensure they work well for both our riders and driver partners."
Uber also announced that it has a partnership with Manas Foundation, which conducts Gender Sensitisation Workshops for Uber driver partners. So far, this initiative has sensitised over 50,000 driver partners across eight cities in India.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)