Uber is adding a direct way to call 911 within its application in a major security review announced Thursday by CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. The emergency button will be located in a new "security center" which can be easily accessed from the application's home screen, giving users a quick way to contact the first responders in case something goes wrong during the trip.
The security center will have information on the driving selection process, insurance protections and community guidelines (also known as the list of horrible behaviors that will drive you out of Uber). Passengers can also designate five friends and share their location during each trip. All this is part of Khosrowshahi's efforts to reform Uber's reputation for failures and address valid criticisms of the company's lax approach to safety.
"We were not perfect."
"We were not perfect," Khosrowshahi said in an interview on Today. "Every time you grow up as fast as we grew up … but that's not an excuse, and sometimes you're wrong, but our intention now is to make things right."
Of course, a new button to contact emergency dispatchers is as useful as the ability of 911 to find it. A recent report from USA Today said 911's chances of getting a quick fix at the location of a distress call can reach 10 percent. And according to a 2014 Federal Communications Commission study, improvements in location accuracy could save more than 10,000 lives annually.
Uber said it will commit $ 350,000 to improve communications among the thousands of 911 centers in the country. Uber will also pilot the integration of 911 with local emergency authorities, beginning in Denver. "If a user uses the Uber emergency button in one of our pilot cities, their location and travel details will be automatically sent to the 911 dispatcher," Khosrowshahi writes in a blog post.
Uber is also updating its driver selection process. In the past, Uber has been criticized for not providing adequate screens to its controllers before allowing them to accept trips on the platform. As of today, the company says it will repeat controls of criminal and motor vehicles on its drivers every year, "regardless of whether there is a legal obligation to do so," Khosrowshahi said in a blog post.
Uber will also introduce a new technology that continuously monitors new infractions by drivers using data sources that cover the majority of new crimes. If you receive a notice of a new offense by a driver, Uber says it will investigate and verify any potentially disqualifying information from public records, such as a new and pending DUI charge, to ensure that the driver remains eligible to use Uber. .
Uber's safety record has been pretty heinous
It is likely that more reforms will be needed, given Uber's rather egregious security record. The company was sued last year by a woman who was raped by an Uber driver after it was reported that senior executives, including former chief executive Travis Kalanick, had obtained and tampered with the woman's medical records in an effort to discredit her. And the city of London said it would not renew Uber's license, citing the company's lax approach to safety. Uber appealed the decision.
More recently, a pedestrian died after being run over by an Uber vehicle driving in Tempe, Arizona. The company immediately stopped its test of autonomous vehicles throughout the country pending the conclusion of an investigation by federal authorities. In today's interview, Khosrowshahi said he is doing a "top-down audit" of security procedures, but adds: "We are absolutely committed to driverless cars."