Uber rolls out safety enhancement features


Fri, Sep 07, 2018 - Page 10

Uber is aiming to boost driver and passenger safety in an effort to rebuild trust in the brand.

The ride-hailing company has created a feature on its app to reach out to passengers and drivers if it detects an accident or unplanned stop.

Drivers will also have access to a hands-free feature to pick up passengers without touching their phones, and they will no longer see data detailing where they retrieved passengers in the past.

“This is just the beginning of the journey for Uber,” CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said on Wednesday during the company’s unveiling of the new features in New York City. “We want Uber to be the safest transportation platform on the planet.”

Uber plans to use location data to figure out if a stop seems unusual because there is no traffic or if a car has not made it to its final destination.

If there is a long, unexpected stop during a trip, both the rider and the driver will receive a ride check notification to ask if everything is OK.

The company has also added a button to its app for drivers to contact emergency services, similar to the one it created for passengers in March.

Uber says using the button is more efficient than calling 911, because the Uber app contains the vehicle’s exact location.

Going forward, Uber will conceal specific pickup and drop-off addresses in the driver’s trip history so that only the general area where a trip has started and ended will show up on the driver’s app, not the address.

Since it began operating in 2009, Uber has been dogged by reports of drivers accosting passengers, including lawsuits alleging sexual assaults.

Despite the scandals, Uber’s ridership is growing, although it is struggling to make money ahead of Khosrowshahi’s planned public stock offering sometime next year.

The San Francisco-based company lost US$891 million in the quarter ending June, narrowing from a US$1.06 billion loss for the same period last year.

On Wednesday, Khosrowshahi said Uber is on track to go public next year and has no plans to sell its self-driving car research arm, Advanced Technologies Group, “at this time.”

“Ultimately, it is a big asset that we are building and we can monetize that in whatever way we want to. It’s not something we’re thinking about it at this point,” he said.

Uber is “quite optimistic” it can resume testing of self-driving cars later this year after a fatal crash involving an autonomous Uber car in Tempe, Arizona, in March, Khosrowshahi said.

Federal regulators are investigating the crash.

Advanced Technologies will “absolutely” be a part of Uber after the initial public offering, but it will also partner with other companies that are building self-driving technology, he added.

Additional reporting by Reuters