Uber is taking a closer look at its passenger safety features and working to improve its previously sparse set of tools. On Thursday, April 12, the transportation giant announced “several new improvements to double down on safety” in the app, including a plan to improve its screening process for drivers and the hire of a new “powerhouse adviser” in order to ensure a safe future for both Uber and its customers.
“Every day, our technology puts millions of people together in cars in cities around the world,” wrote CEO Dara Khosrowshahi in a blog post. “Helping keep people safe is a huge responsibility, and one we do not take lightly. That’s why as CEO, I’m committed to putting safety at the core of everything we do.”
So what exactly can we expect to see? In addition to existing safety features like Share My Trip (which will be made easier to find), Uber is adding a new Safety Center, which is described as a “dedicated place in the app” where passengers can learn about key safety information. You’ll be able to find content on Uber’s built-in partnership with law enforcement, their driver screening processes, insurance protections, and community guidelines.
Uber is also allowing passengers to designate up to five friends and family members as their Trusted Contacts. Each time you hop in an Uber, you’ll be encouraged to share your trip details so that someone always knows where you are. That said, if you’re constantly in Ubers and don’t want to inundate your loved ones with notifications about your travel schedule, you can also elect to only share your trip during evening rides.
The Uber app will also soon include a 911 emergency button that will connect you directly with first responders. This feature will also show your real-time location in the app as both an address and an image on a map, so that you can easily share it with the 911 operator. The same feature will also be made available for drivers. Uber is also partnering with RapidSOS and the National Emergency Number Association in order to explore faster response times and improving 911 call routing.
On the driver side, Uber is looking to “increase due diligence to strengthen [its] screening process.” Moving forward, the company says that it will “proactively rerun criminal and motor vehicle checks each year.” Moreover, Uber has pledged to keep a close eye on its drivers’ criminal records. “Using data sources that cover most new criminal offenses, we will receive notifications when a driver is involved and leverage this information to help continuously enforce our screening standards,” Khosrowshahi wrote.
And finally, the company is expanding its Safety Advisory Board with Jeh Johnson, the former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. In his new capacity, Johnson will serve as the Chairman of that board, which is already comprised of law enforcement, road safety, criminal justice, sexual assault, and domestic violence prevention experts.