Uber has announced a series of new features and initiatives that aim to increase passenger security.
Firstly, riders will be able to designate up to five people as Trusted Contacts with whom trip details can be shared with during every ride. That way, riders’ friends and family can know when they’ve arrived. A night time sharing option will also be available for those who only want to share their evening rides.
In case of emergencies, a new button will also be added to the app that connects the user directly with 911. This feature also provides a map and address of the user’s location to the 911 operator to help authorities locate them more quickly. The feature will also come to the Uber driver app at a later date.
The emergency button is currently being piloted in the U.S. in Denver, Colorado, but Uber says it will be “monitoring this pilot closely and evaluating further expansion” into other areas.
Finally, Uber will begin to more thoroughly vet its drivers around the world by “proactively rerun[ning] criminal and motor vehicle checks, regardless of whether there is a legal obligation to do so.”
Additionally, Uber says it will be one of the first companies to invest in technology that will flag new offences from drivers. 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.
All of these features are currently only set to come to the U.S. in the summer, although Uber is planning to roll them out internationally at some point in the future.
The announcements are part of CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s larger effort to improve Uber’s public image in the wake of many scandals. Former CEO Travis Kalanick resigned last June following “hours of drama” with investors and reports regarding how he was allegedly mistreating his employees.
Currently, Uber is facing a class action suit in the United States for poor driver vetting that resulted in a series of sexual harassment incidents, including rape. The company also came under scrutiny last month when an Arizona woman was hit and killed by an Uber self-driving, raising concerns of the safety of autonomous vehicles.