Uber adds panic button for U.S. customers, with driver button to come later

Uber rolled out a U.S. customer panic button and Trusted Contacts safety features nationwide. Both tools are accessible from the Uber app home screen.

Swipe up on the new safety center icon and tap “911 assistance.” You will have to tap again to confirm the call. Uber’s director of product management, Sachin Kansal, told The Verge the extra tap is required to minimize accidental 911 calls.

With the second tap the car’s make, model, license plate number, and current location display on the app screen while the app dials 911. When the operator answers, the rider can explain the problem and relay the car’s information.

An investigative reporter with Today had an exclusive first test of the new panic button. The reporter read the displayed car location information to the 911 operator, and police arrived within five minutes.

Because passengers can get unruly or endanger drivers, Uber also announced plans to introduce a driver emergency button following the passenger 911 call button.

When you don’t want the driver to know you’re calling 911

Uber is teaming with RapidSOS in a pilot program for automatic location sharing with 911 services. Six U.S. cities will have a more advanced version of the emergency button, with location and car-specific information.

Riders in Denver, Colorado; Charleston, South Carolina; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Naples, Florida; Tri-Cities, Tennessee; and Louisville, Kentucky will be first with the advanced version. Nashville will be the next city with the advanced notification capability, Today reported.

When Uber riders in the listed cities tap the advanced emergency button, the 911 operator will automatically receive the rider’s name and the car’s make, model, color, license plate number, and exact location. With that capability, even if a rider can’t talk or doesn’t want to be heard speaking to the 911 operator, the emergency call would go out and help would be dispatched.

Let others know where you are

Uber’s Trusted Contacts feature lets U.S. riders designate up to five friends or family members to share real-time Uber trip location information. Contacts will be able to follow along as the trip progresses and know when the rider reaches the destination.

The app sets up reminders to turn on sharing during each trip. A nighttime option lets users share Uber trips in the evening only.

Earlier this year, the ridesharing company’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi announced the emergency button and other safety services would be coming soon.

“Helping keep people safe is a huge responsibility,” Khosrowshahi wrote in a company news release at the time, “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.”

Uber originally introduced an in-app panic button in India in 2015. The addition was precipitated when Uber service was suspended in several Indian states after an Uber driver was accused of rape by a female passenger in New Delhi. At the same time, Uber also added what it termed a ‘safety net’ tool that let Uber riders in India share trip information and location with up to five contacts — the early version of the new Trusted Contacts feature.

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