By Anusha Bhagat
Taxi hailing global giant Uber has recently introduced a number of key initiatives to improve driver and rider safety, as a part of its UberSAFE Campaign. These new initiatives are believed to be significant courses of action to recuperate Uber not only financially, but also culturally.
Reasons for the change
These changes are part of its global exercise—called 180 Days of Change—following Travis Kalanick’s exit which deteriorated the public perception of the company to a large extent. Issues ranged from sexual harassment, Uber’s app tracking users’ locations long after their last rides, breaking Apple’s rules, the #DeleteUber campaign, and a lawsuit with Google’s Waymo.
Share Trip Feature
As a part of its latest measures, Uber has introduced a ‘Share Trip’ feature for drivers to allow them to share trip details, including route and ETA, in real time with their family or friends. Uber already offers a similar feature to its riders to ensure a safe and reliable trip.
Uber has stated that this feature will be rolled out across Delhi, Kolkata, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, Lucknow on the 31st of August this year, and will be rolled out across the country by the end of September. Globally, the feature is available across cities in the US, Brazil, Mexico as well as Cairo, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, among others. Keeping in mind the security concerns for women in India, this feature can be seen as an excellent move to boost safety for women drivers.
Furthermore, Uber has tightened its screening process for its 4,50,000 driver network by launching a deduplication feature in India. This initiative to check and de-duplicate driver partner accounts on its platform will eliminate account sharing incidents.
Uber said that its technology will help identify the duplicate accounts, which will be temporarily paused. This will ensure that only verified drivers have access to the Uber app, the company said. This is in addition to the verification that is carried out through face-recognition technology, where the driver takes a selfie before setting out for the day which is matched with the right driver profile for the account.
Unverified accounts will be deleted and barred from use in the future. “We are maximising the use of technology to bring transparency and accountability through features such as two-way feedback and ratings, telematics and GPS, among others, which we believe will have a positive impact on furthering trust and empathy between riders and driver partners,” said Apurva Dalal, Head of Engineering, Uber India.
Partnership with Himmat App
Uber has also partnered with Delhi Police to allow quick access to Himmat, a women safety mobile app, to enhance the safety of women passengers. According to the company, the quick access to Himmat from within Uber app will act as a ‘force multiplier’.
Himmat app, which was launched by the Delhi Police in 2015, has over 31,000 registered users with over 90,000 downloads. It allows passengers to send a distress call to the Police Control Room and their relatives in an event of emergency. When a passenger taps the distress call option, a 30-second audio and video recording from the phone is relayed to the authority. It is the first time Delhi Police has partnered with a technology company, Uber said.
The safety of female passengers has been an issue for both the cab hailing aggregators Ola and Uber. Although both the companies have made key moves to improve various safety measures for passengers including a panic button, such collaborations will add to the safety of solo women travellers.
Such technology led safety measures are indeed vital to overcome safety challenges for women in India and reduce hesitation for women who commute at late hours of the night. This move is particularly a significant step to repair the image of Uber as “women friendly”, as it had come under severe scrutiny over allegations of women harassment throughout its corporate ranks.
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