On Tuesday, Uber officially made good on a promise made in April to release a panic button for United States passengers using their app and service. The panic button officially went live as part of the app’s controls, allowing app users to directly call 911 from within the app. The move comes as a response to the safety concerns that have been raised with regards to the popular ride-sharing service.
The Verge reported on Tuesday that the app home screen now has a “safety center” menu including the new emergency button. Riders can swipe up on that safety center icon and tap on “911 assistance” to use the panic button. After confirming they intended to make a call to 911, the call goes through to the emergency dispatch service. The new feature was rolled out in the United States after initial testing was done in India with the Uber service.
While the panic button that has been released in the United States is intended for passengers using the app, there are plans to also give Uber drivers a similar feature. The idea is to cut down on bad behavior from both passengers and drivers as part of the Uber ride-sharing experience.
Uber will also be testing out a “911 integration pilot” in select markets. The feature will be able to give location and trip details for a rider to the 911 dispatcher to help cut down on location accuracy issues from US 911 dispatchers. Among the cities that will receive the location sharing testing will be Charleston, South Carolina; Denver Colorado; Naples, Florida; as well as Chattanooga and Nashville, Tennessee.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is using the new safety features to try to help improve the company’s poor record in that area. There have been incidents reported involving drivers including a lawsuit where a female passenger was raped by an Uber driver in India. In London, the city declared that the company had a “lax approach to safety” and said they would not give the company a renewal for their license. However, after an appeal, Uber is still able to operate within London. In addition, plans for the company’s autonomous driving cars have been halted after a pedestrian was hit by a self-driving Uber car in Tempe, Arizona.
Khosrowshahi has said the panic button, location sharing features, and better driver screening will be “just the beginning” as Uber addresses its safety concerns.