Uber focuses on safety improvements as it battles to regain its London license

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Uber lost its operating license in London in September 2017 but can continue to operate ahead of an appeal in the spring.

Regulator Transport for London (TfL) told Uber that it is “not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator license,” citing a number of issues, including its approach to reporting serious criminal offenses.

But with the appeal hearing just a few months away, Uber is keen to fix those issues to show itself as a responsible operator for the estimated 3.5 million Londoners who use the service, and the 40,000 drivers who make a living from it.

The ridesharing giant on Friday announced a number of measures, including how it reports suspected crimes to the police.

“While we previously encouraged and supported individuals to report to the police serious incidents related to a trip booked through our app, we will now proactively make the reports,” Tom Elvidge, the U.K.’s general manager, wrote in a post explaining the changes.

Elvidge promised that Uber will now “pass directly to the police information about any serious incident reported to us by riders,” adding that it will also do the same for drivers if they would like the company to make a complaint on their behalf rather than in person.

The new policy is already live in London with plans to launch it in other U.K. cities following discussions with local police departments.

The company is also making plans for a 24/7 helpline for both riders and drivers. “Whenever there’s an issue like an incorrect cancellation fee, riders and drivers alike often find it’s easy and simple to get it sorted through the app,” Elvidge said. “But drivers and riders have told us that they would like the option to give us a call, especially if something more serious happens.” Uber will soon begin training new recruits for the service, which will launch “later this year.”

Other changes include the introduction in the Uber app of a live map for drivers so that a family member or friend can see where they are when they’re on the road, a feature already available to riders.

Uber’s announcement came the day after TfL unveiled a set of stringent guidelines for any app-based taxi service seeking licensing in the capital, with Uber already addressing some of them.

Despite TfL’s severe criticisms of the ridesharing service in 2017, Elvidge insisted “the safety of riders and drivers using Uber is a top priority.”

“Over the last few years we’ve led the way with pioneering technology which enhances safety, like GPS tracking of every trip and our two-way rating system. But we recognize we can use our technology to go even further in setting a higher standard for private hire and other transport options.”

He added that Uber will “carry on listening and plan to make other improvements over the coming months.” We’ll have to wait and see whether its renewed efforts are enough to persuade TfL to renew the company’s license.