Uber Finally Adds Safety Features It Should Have Had Years Ago

Illustration for article titled Uber Finally Adds Safety Features It Should Have Had Years Ago

Uber announced it was “getting serious about safety” in April—just shy of a decade since Uber was founded—and pointed to a number of forthcoming features that would support that declaration. On Wednesday, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi asserted in a blog post that the company was “raising the bar on safety” with another round of new safety updates.

Gif: Uber

The first feature listed in the post is called Ride Check. It uses GPS and “other sensors in the driver’s smartphone,” Uber says, to identify whether you’ve been in an accident. If Uber detects that you might have been in a crash, it’ll send both the user and the driver its Safety Toolkit via the app, asking if everything is okay and giving them the option to call 911. The blog post indicated that this Safety ToolKit, as well as the company’s panic button, will expand to all drivers across the U.S. and Canada.

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Ride Check will also identify other factors that might indicate whether someone is in danger, such as “a long, unexpected stop during a trip.” This will also prompt this safety notification. Although, if someone was in serious danger, it’s unlikely they would have ease of access to go through the motions of Uber’s Safety ToolKit options.

“We expect to expand this technology to additional scenarios in the future,” Khosrowshahi wrote in the post.

The post also listed a few other safety features that are inarguably important but also feel bafflingly belated. The company will soon roll out voice-activated commands for drivers, for example, affording them the option to chat with users hands-free.

The company will also let both drivers and users chat through the app without disclosing their actual phone number. Further, Uber will let users request a trip at a cross-street instead of the exact address. Drivers will also only see the “general area” of the beginning and end point of a trip after it ends. This follows a slew of reports of drivers stalking or harassing passengers. In April, Uber announced it was launching a pilot program that would obscure the exact pickup and drop-off locations of a user’s trip history, instead showing drivers a wider scope.

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Uber is also expanding its two-factor authentication process. Users can opt-in to have two-step verification each time they log in, whether it’s through texts (which can be intercepted in a targeted attack) or third-party authentication apps.

Not all of these features are available to all users now—they are expected to roll out “over the coming months.”

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“Uber has a responsibility to help keep people safe, and it’s one we take seriously,” Khosrowshahi wrote. “We want you to have peace of mind every time you use Uber, and hope these features make it clear that we’ve got your back.”

If you know only a few things about Uber, one is that it’s a ridesharing service, and the other is likely that it has a hell of a mess to clean up. Khosrowshahi just hit his one-year mark with the company, and among the litany of issues he was tasked with upon his arrival, a major one was safety. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but these basic and crucial updates point to a slightly more safe and secure service. But it’s barely commendable—these are issues and features Uber should have been thinking about before it hit the market.

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DISCUSSION

Driver here, seems like these features will be more annoying than anything, only an attempt to make the company look good.

“It uses GPS and “other sensors in the driver’s smartphone,” Uber says, to identify whether you’ve been in an accident.

So speedbumps, potholes, and the general road conditions I go over will trigger an event? I had “crash detection” on my dashcams until they kept saving events every time I went over a railroad crossing.

“a long, unexpected stop during a trip.” This will also prompt this safety notification.

Again, this is a routine event for a driver. I try to avoid any major stops (because I don’t get paid when the vehicle stops), there are times it’s hard to say no to someone who needs to stop at a store, bank, drive-thru, or buddy’s house along the way.

Although, I guess this might deter people from wanting to stop along the way, so maybe a double-edged sword.

“Further, Uber will let users request a trip at a cross-street instead of the exact address.”

Possibly the worst idea of all. Keep in mind, people already have the power to drop the pin where they want, most people even screw this up, putting me on the wrong street and then telling me “Oh yea, every driver gets it wrong.” (so fucking pick a better spot to drop the pin).

The reason this is a bad idea is because I already get a bunch of “street corner” waiters, who think it’s feasible for me to stop my car right in the middle of the fucking highway or midway through an intersection.  The safest place for me to pick you up is outside a business or residence.  I’m not a city bus and if you’re waiting on the side of a busy road or on the corner of an intersection, I’m going to drive right past you, find the nearest place to safely park, and then I’ll wait for you to walk your ass over.