One of the features launched is RideCheck, where using real-time data and other sensors in drivers’ smartphones, Uber can detect long stops and possible crashes.

Atom Transportation Thursday, January 09, 2020 - 18:28

Many complaints have been raised against taxi aggregators Ola and Uber when it comes to customer safety and driver behaviour. And over time, the complaints have only increased. In this backdrop, Uber has announced new safety features for India. 

The rollout of these features comes after company CEO Dara Khushrowshahi announced a slew of changes in September 2019.

The first of the features to be rolled out in India is the RideCheck — a check where both the driver and the passenger would be asked if things are okay. 

“Every trip is on the map, so we know where and when you’re riding and who’s behind the wheel. By using this data and other sensors in drivers’ smartphones, our technology can detect long stops and possible crashes,” Uber said. 

Using this, when Uber initiates a RideCheck, both parties will receive a notification on the app. They can say if things are fine, use the emergency button or get to Uber’s safety line.

“This technology will continue to evolve, and we are working to add additional scenarios to RideCheck,” the company said. 

The second feature is the use of PIN one has to give the driver in order to start the ride. This is something which had been announced by the CEO in September last year as well — and has also been a long-standing feature of Uber’s primary competitor in India, Ola. Uber had already rolled out this feature earlier to some customers.

The PIN, a four-digit verification code, is to make sure the passenger is getting into the right car. According to Uber, the company is also working on technology that will use Ultrasound waves to automatically transmit the PIN.

“Riders can opt-in to the feature and can choose to receive a PIN on every trip or just night time trips,” the company said.

The third and final feature that is going to be introduced is an audio recording feature. 

“Once introduced, if you feel uncomfortable while on-trip, you can record audio of the trip within the app itself. You can start and stop the recording at any time through the Safety Toolkit. When the trip ends, you will be asked if everything is ok, and will have the option to report a safety incident and submit the audio recording,” the company said. The company said that there will be a shield icon from where riders can access this option.

This audio file will be encrypted and stored on the device and can only be decrypted by Uber. 

“The encrypted audio file, which will be stored on your device, can be sent to Uber’s customer support agents who will use the audio to better understand an incident and take the appropriate action. If you choose to not report the incident immediately after the trip ends, you can visit your trip history and choose to report it later,” the company further added.

While the company stated that the audio recording will only be submitted when the rider wants to and that drivers and riders will be notified when the feature is rolled out, there is no information on how these audio recordings will be kept safe. 

Uber’s announcements come a little over two weeks after Ola announced its ‘Guardian’ feature to detect irregularities during the trip. Alerts are flagged in real-time to Ola’s Safety Response Team.

Read: How Ola and Uber can be more proactive about passenger safety