Uber ‘panic button’ lands for India service this week

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The safety of those using Uber’s ride-hailing app came under the spotlight toward the end of last year when a female passenger in New Delhi accused an Uber driver of rape.

Following the alleged incident, which highlighted lax screening procedures for new Uber drivers, a number of states across India suspended the service.

Keen to take control of the situation in one of its biggest markets, the company acted quickly to reassure both the authorities and those using its service by publishing a plan of action for improving rider safety. As part of its campaign, the San Francisco-based company will this week launch an in-app panic button that allows passengers to quickly contact the police in the event of an emergency.

The feature will land Wednesday for Uber riders in India, though a wider rollout to other countries is also thought to be in the works. It’s believed the India launch has been brought forward after the Mumbai Transportation Department recently pressured Uber to implement stronger safety measures. The department had been pushing for the app’s ban in the western state of Maharashtra after claiming Uber had missed a mid-January deadline for the introduction of the new measures.

Uber recently took to its blog to, as it put it, “set the record straight” regarding “some misconceptions with respect to Uber’s safety initiatives.” In its post, the company revealed the nationwide launch date for its panic button, and said it’d started sharing driver and vehicle data with the transport department and traffic police to help with the verification process that all new Uber drivers have to go through prior to the start of their employment.

The company said it’s also established a special response team for dealing with incidents that occur during Uber rides. According to the company, “this specialized team has completed an extensive training programme by our U.S. safety experts and will be reachable 24/7.”

Another new feature arriving on the app in India this week is a ‘safety net’ tool that lets users easily share their trip information and realtime location with up to five friends and family members.

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