However, safety is a concern for drivers and passengers alike. Uber received 6,000 reports of sexual assaults and 107 road deaths over a total of 2.3 billion U.S. trips in 2017 and 2018 (the company has yet to publish its safety report and full-year traffic fatality data for 2019 and 2020).
Now, Uber Technologies Inc. have announced plans to launch new in-app features to improve safety for drivers and passengers.
Audio recording feature
Launching in North Carolina, Kansas City, Louisville, Missouri, Raleigh-Durham, and Kentucky, drivers and riders alike will be able to use Uber’s new audio recording feature to send journey recordings to Uber in the event of a safety incident.
The feature aims to provide passengers and drivers with extra security if they start feeling uncomfortable or concerned, as well as let them submit proof of how a situation went down.
This new program is, however, optional. Drivers and passengers can select the shield icon on the map in the Uber app and tap “Record Audio” to opt-in.
If a driver has the feature switched on, riders will receive a notification with the option to cancel if they’re uncomfortable.
Safe and Secure
Already in operation across Latin American for two years, Uber Vice President of Product Management Sachin Kansal says Uber has used their experience in Latin America to improve upon “privacy, transparency and convenience” before the US launch.
Encrypted audio files are stored within the Uber app where no one, not even Uber, can listen to them.
If someone files safety report with Uber, they can attach the audio file.
Qualified Uber safety staff will decrypt and assess the recording to help clarify the incident and determine next steps.
While Uber does provide liability coverage for drivers in the event of an accident, its only valid if the driver is actively taking requests and varies in amount depending on the app’s status.
An Uber accident lawyer can determine liability after an accident and file a claim against the correct party.
Moreover, Uber’s seatbelt feature intends to help minimize risk of accident and injury by sending push notifications to passengers reminding them to buckle-up at the start of the journey.
Drivers will also be sent audio alert reminders. An Uber spokesperson said the motivation for introducing this feature was partially due to new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data revealing road fatalities in 2020 were the highest since 2007, despite Americans driving less in 2020.
“Many people admit to not always buckling up in the back seat, especially on shorter trips, and that can create an uncomfortable situation for drivers,” said Kristin Smith, Uber’s road safety public policy manager. “We think introducing an audio reminder can help reinforce the message that people need to buckle up in every seat, every time”.