Since its introduction in 2011, Uber has revolutionized the way in which people avail transportation services. Instead of having to call a taxi company, or waiting curbside to hail a cab – Uber has used state-of-the-art technology to provide users with a mobile app. Potential passengers use the app to request a ride, as it intimates their location to drivers nearby. Uber drivers, usually common people with a car, then arrive at the mentioned location to ensure a relaxing ride to the destination. Despite the novel and modern concept, however, numerous incidences regarding the safety of passengers has tarnished the reputation of the company, leading ex-CEO Travis Kalanick to step down. Revitalizing trust in the brand was the primary goal for the new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, who on 5th September, 2018, announced that Uber has rolled out few features that addresses the safety and security of not only its passengers, but also its drivers.
“I want Uber to be the safest transportation platform on the planet,” Khosrowshahi said at an event that unveiled the company’s new features in Manhattan, New York.
The primary safety feature that’s introduced is called the “Ride Check”. It turns the user’s smartphone into an automatic crash detector – utilizing the smartphone’s accelerometer, gyroscope, and other sensors to detect if the vehicle has been in a crash. By collecting data from hundreds of thousands of past trips, Uber’s data scientists remove the noise from the signal to predict if a spike of force from the accelerometer corresponds to a crash. In the event of an accident, the Uber app sends a notification to the passenger’s and driver’s smartphone to confirm it. A confirmation, or lack of any response, prompts a 911 emergency call that shares the GPS location of the vehicle with authorities. “Ride Check” also reaches out to the passenger in case the vehicle stops or sways from the prescribed route, ensuring their safety during the ride.
In 2017, a woman from New Delhi, India was raped by an Uber driver. She sued the company after discovering that top executives mishandled her medical records in an attempt to discredit her. There have also been several instances of rape and harassment of women by Uber drivers across the globe. Citing the company’s negligent safety standards, London temporarily rebuked Uber’s license to operate in the city, later renewing it under strict guidelines and protocols. These instances, along with the cab lobby’s continuous protests, hampered Uber’s reputation in its user’s eyes – who became extra cautious about getting into a car with a complete stranger.
Along with “Ride Check”, Uber also unloaded several new features that minimize some of these security concerns. New and efficient ways to mask addresses and phone numbers ensure that drivers don’t have access to an ex-passengers information. Uber has also introduced two-factor authentication to protect a passenger’s account from malicious hacking. Uber drivers also get voice commands and an insurance hub to ensure their security as well.
Uber has been instrumental in catapulting the concept of a “peer-to-peer based shared economy”, so much so that it’s now referred to as ‘Uberization’. However, its past failures to address concerns regarding the safety and security of its passengers and drivers have diminished the trust in the brand. With a series of changes brought forward by the new CEO, it hopes to change the perception of people towards the company’s attitude towards security and safety.