Ride Share: Uber rolls out SMS-911 safety feature on app for users across US
NEW YORK CITY — Uber is rolling out new security features that will allow users to speak to a live security guard and text 911 operators in the event of an emergency.
Rebecca Payne, senior project manager for Uber’s safety team, told ABC News how, according to the popular ridesharing platform, some of the features can help passengers feel more comfortable and can provide more access to emergency services.
A feature, which Uber says will roll out to more than half the country, including New York and California, will allow users to text 911 operators for immediate emergency response.
Uber says about 60% of the United States will be able to use it.
“Text-to-911 is something we started testing in 2019 in counties that allowed texting to their 911 call centers,” Payne said. “And so, with this announcement, we are now expanding that to all counties that have this technology available now.”
When passengers use the text-to-911 feature in the app, the app generates a pre-written message containing information about the trip, such as vehicle and location information.
Payne said it was a good way for users to “quietly” get emergency help.
Another new feature, called “live help”, will allow passengers, drivers and couriers to speak to a security guard through a partnership with security company ADT.
Riders can send a message through the Uber app and receive a call or text with a trained security guard, according to Uber. Users can then stay on the phone with that agent until they feel comfortable or until their ride is complete.
“They can use it for any situation that doesn’t yet escalate into the need to call the police or other emergency services like fire or ambulance, but they may feel unsafe or unwell. comfortable and needing someone to talk to them about a situation,” Payne said. .
She said user response to the feature, which was tested in nine US cities late last year, has been “overwhelmingly positive”.
The features were added to the app’s security toolkit, which was introduced in 2018.
In Uber’s latest safety report, the company said 99.9% of the average of nearly 3 million rides per day reported no safety incidents, including car accidents, assaults physical or sexual assault.
But the report also found that in 2019 and 2020, the company reported 3,824 incidents of sexual assault. Uber has reported similar rates of such incidents in previous years.
To access the new security features, users must update their Uber apps. Payne said she recommends users also explore the in-app security toolkit.
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