Amid safety concerns, Uber to offer ‘panic button’ feature in country

By: | Published: February 8, 2015 12:06 AM

Amid safety concerns, taxi service company Uber is set to launch two features in India, including a “panic button"...

Amid safety concerns, taxi service company Uber is set to launch two features in India, including a “panic button”, after an Indian woman was raped in New Delhi by a driver working for the firm.

Uber’s general manager for Mumbai, Shailesh, in a blog post, said beginning February 11, Uber will launch an in-app panic (SOS) button that would allow a rider to alert the local police at the push of a button in case of an emergency. It will also introduce a safety net feature, which would allow users to easily share their trip details and real-time location with up to five friends and family members.

“Our goal is to make Uber the safest place in the city. To do this, we will continue to leverage our technology and operational scale to deliver rides that bring unprecedented transparency and accountability to your transportation experience,” Shailesh said.

He said a user will be able to activate the easily accessible in-app panic button with a single tap. The company said it has established a dedicated local ‘Incident Response Team’ that oversees and responds to incidents against property and person reported by riders and will also receive a notification, in addition to the local police, when the in-app panic button is pressed.

It said the specialised team which would assist local law enforcement officers during distress situations has completed an extensive training programme by the company’s US safety experts and would be reachable 24×7.

Earlier this week, Uber had launched a nationwide third-party driver screening programme in India with First Advantage, a global firm specialising in background checks. Uber said it was an important step in building an industry first background check process for every one of the many thousands of driver-partners on the Uber platform in India.

The various safety measures being put in place by Uber come after a woman in New Delhi accused an Uber driver of raping her in December last year as she boarded the taxi to go home late in the evening. The young woman hired prominent New York attorney Douglas Wigdor and has filed a lawsuit against Uber in California seeking unspecified damages, alleging that Uber does not adequately screen its drivers.

Wigdor has lashed out at the company, saying its focus on “bottom line” over the safety of its passengers has resulted in “what can only be described as modern day electronic hitchhiking”.

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