Uber will soon detect unexpected stops, car crashes

Dara Khosrowshahi marked his one-year anniversary at Uber by reinforcing how rider safety is a top priority for the company.

At a press event in New York City on Wednesday, the CEO unveiled new Uber safety features such as Ride Check, a GPS-powered tool that uses a smartphone’s sensors to detect an unexpected stop or an impact during a crash.

If a crash is suspected, a prompt will appear on both rider and driver phones’ with safety features like a prompt to order another ride paid for by Uber or use the 9-11 emergency call button. Uber made the in-app 9-11 feature available earlier this year to riders but it’s now accessible for drivers.

Ride Check’s capabilities are expected to roll out in the coming months.

“We want to proactively reach out to the rider, check in and make sure they can get help if they need it,” said Sachin Kansal, director of safety product at Uber, during the event.

In addition, Uber is adding a “hands free” feature for drivers so they can accept trips via voice commands. Exact pick-up and drop-off locations will also be removed from drivers’ trip record history and receipts to protect rider privacy. The app is getting better security, too: Riders can now enable two-factor authentication to keep their data extra protected.

During his remarks, Khosrowshahi said he wants Uber to be synonymous with safety, along with its ability to quickly hail rides. “This is the beginning of our journey,” he said.

The announcements are a reminder of how much the company has done in terms of rider security, and how far it has yet to go. In April, a CNN investigation found at least 103 Uber drivers in the United States who have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the past four years. The drivers were arrested, are wanted by police, or have been named in civil suits related to the incidents.

Following the investigation, Uber announced several changes such as it will no longer force individuals with sexual harassment or assault claims into arbitration.

“While it might not look so good on the P&L, it forces us to stand behind or words and forces us as a company to get better and better as it relates to safety,” Khosrowshahi said in an interview with CNN last week. “It’s been a big step for us as a company.”

Uber also said it will publish a “safety transparency report” to publicly put numbers behind how many sexual assaults and other incidents occur on its platform. But it has yet to do so.

“We haven’t nailed down an exact timeline, but we’re working toward [one] sometime next year,” Khosrowshahi told CNN.