Some significant concerns regarding Uber's safety have hit the headlines this week, with the Washington Post posting a scathing report that Uber's "Special Investigation's Unit" (SIU) puts Uber over the passenger's safety.
After this report and article were published, Uber immediately added three new safety features to its services.
How did this come about?
The SIU is the section of the company that deals with the worst incidents reported by passengers.
It was the SIU that the Washington Post was berating. What the Post said was that the SIU was placing Uber over its passengers.
However, Uber retorted that "Employees on this team receive more targeted training based on years of guidance from experts in the field, and we believe provide a better experience to customers in their time of need."
They continued, "We've continued to enhance the team by actively hiring experienced specialists from diverse backgrounds such as social services, crisis management and law enforcement, who can manage reports of more serious safety incidents and have gone through training on how to deal with difficult issues."
And Uber closed off by saying, "We have consulted with experts on this issue, and the consistent advice we have received is that it is the victim's choice to report an incident to police, not Uber's."
That said, Uber has taken responsibility and added new safety features to their business.
What were the additional safety features?
Sachin Kansal, Uber's senior director of product management, took to Uber headquarter's stage on Thursday to point out some of the new safety features on the Uber app.
.@uber’s head of safety Sachin Kansal is talking about the newest safety features aimed to help keep riders and drivers safer. We wrote about the features, some of which should help combat fake drivers. Read more here: https://t.co/Z5MHTXNjnApic.twitter.com/iozHkh3cC4— Danielle Abril (@DanielleDigest) September 26, 2019
The three main new safety features include ensuring the right driver is behind the wheel, entering the correct vehicle by using a pin number and ultrasound technology, as well as how riders can call for help discreetly.
The latter is also named the 911 feature. This feature was created in partnership with law enforcement officials, to ensure they receive the relevant information needed to assess the situation quickly and carefully.
It is built to be discreet. The person in distress — either the rider, or the driver — taps on the text message button and a pre-populated text message pops up, which already includes the driver's information, the vehicle's current location, and the exact destination of the ride.
The person can also directly call 911 from the app.
In cities where emergency responders can respond to text messages, you can now text 911 directly through the Uber app and automatically transmit details about your location and the vehicle your in to emergency responders https://t.co/tyrtaSfjCj— WIRED (@WIRED) September 27, 2019
In order to identify that a rider is entering the correct car, Uber has added a selfie feature, and the option to request a code, to recognize the driver. If there is no match, the driver's account can't start the journey.
Another feature, which helps cyclists on the roads as well, is that passengers now receive a notification when their Uber has stopped by a cycling lane. They can now pay more attention to not open doors on unaware cyclists.