Starting February 11, Uber, the ride-hailing company, launches a new built-in feature for its app, allowing all their travelers from India to press a panic button in cases of emergency. This new setting was developed as a reaction to the rising danger posed to female passengers.
The panic button comes with a safety net feature. Shailesh, the general manager of Uber in Mumbai, explained how both these settings work: the panic button alerts the local police of your emergency, while the safety net helps you give easy access to your ride details and real-time location to five friends or family members. The company reported that, in addition to alerting the local police of your emergency, there is an organized local “Incident Response Team” standing by, responding to the rider’s reported incidents, either against person or property. So the in-app panic button also sends them a notification, so they can come to the rescue.
Shailesh described the specialized team as having completed a training program, taught by the company’s safety experts, and they would back up the police taskforce during emergency situations 24/7.
Shailesh explained that Uber’s goal is to become the safest place to be in the city, using technology the best way they can, as to make their passengers feel safe and their transportation experience be the most transparent and accountable.
This very week, First Advantage, a worldwide company specializing in background checks, has started its collaboration with Uber, as the author of a screening program in India. Uber intends to create a background check for every one of their drivers (they have reached the number of thousands), taking another step into making its rides even safer.
The new safety measures adopted by Uber have had a tragic trigger, following the accusations of rape from December last year. A woman accused an Uber driver of raping her, when she ordered a cab for her a ride home, late in the evening. The young lady was legally represented by famous Douglas Wigdor, New York attorney, who filed a lawsuit against the Californian branch of Uber, claiming that the company does not have a proper screening process for recruiting its drivers.
The lawyer accused the company of being concerned about profit in detriment of the safety of its riders, rendering Uber to be no more than a company providing unsafe “electronic hitchhiking”. Mumbai’s Transport Department intends to recommend to higher authorities that Uber’s mobile app be banned in India, since the company has failed to improve their recruiting and screening methods for its drivers, therefore enforcing better security measures.
In response to these reports, Shailesh said that Uber is open to disusing safety issues with Mumbai Transportation Department, and is keen on updating the standard safety measures in order to be agreeable to the new transportation systems which are now enabled by technology.
The company’s executive explained why Uber chose to launch an online SOS button instead of installing physical panic buttons in the company’s cars and those of its partners. He said that in-app panic buttons are more efficient, because physical ones are prone to damage and could cause confusion among riders.
As a company who rests so heavily on technology, Uber did not buy cars or employ drivers, but collaborates with various independent contractors, who are certified by the government to provide transportation. The drivers are not employers of Uber, and therefore are free to work with other transport operators also.
Consequently, if a driver works with four different operators, he would have to install four different physical panic buttons in his car. This solution is not very efficient, as the passenger in distress would have make a quick decision of choosing the corresponding panic button for the platform he is using in order to get help on time. This decision has a 25 percent chances of being the correct one, reducing the times when law enforcement would reach the emergency situation on time.
Besides the obvious confusion, Uber noted that physical panic buttons are not only prone to depreciation caused by ordinary use and exposure, but they can also encounter mechanical failures. There is no situation where all these buttons could be supervised and kept in perfect condition in all the taxis from the city.
The only viable solution offered by Uber is installing only one button for all the platforms, a button which would alert only the local police immediately, and the task of installing it would fall on the owner of the taxi. Uber is very invested in its passengers safety, and proposed this method of installing these buttons, pledging the necessary funds for all the current or prospective drivers who want to partner with Uber.
Image Source: Macrospective
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