Uber Riders Get a Safety Boost

Uber activates RideCheck for drivers and passengers

For Uber, the safety of its passengers and drivers has become a top concern after a number of high-profile events. Following incidents in London and other cities, Uber promised to work on enhancing safety not only for its customers, but also its drivers. And in keeping with its promise, the company has worked to improve the safety of its service with the addition of features that include trusted contacts, an in-app panic button and a safety centre section within its app (see Uber Rolls out Panic Button).

In 2018, Uber announced a feature called RideCheck, which uses GPS and other sensors in a smartphone to detect trip irregularities such as a vehicle crash or an unexpected long stop. Uber has been testing the feature over the past few months, with select passengers in Los Angeles, Dallas and several other cities in the US. This week, the ride-hailing company announced that it’s rolling out the service to all customers and drivers in the country and plans to expand it to other geographies in the near future.

GPS has been the backbone of the Uber experience as every trip is mapped. By using this data and other sensors in drivers’ smartphones, Uber technology can detect possible crashes or if a trip goes off course. When the RideCheck feature is initiated, both a rider and driver get a notification to find out the safety of the car’s occupants, who can respond through the Uber app or by taking other actions like using the emergency button or reporting the problem to Uber’s Safety Line, meant for non-emergency situations. In some cases, Uber’s safety team may also follow up with a phone call to inquire about RideCheck.

Using smartphones to respond to emergencies isn’t new. Other companies have been working on similar crash-detection technology for several years now, such as Zendrive. General Motor’s OnStar and the European eCall initiative use sensors embedded in vehicles to detect crashes and automatically alert authorities.

Uber’s RideCheck tool is a useful addition to the company’s service, and in extreme cases can turn out to be life-saving. Although the vast majority of Uber rides are incident-free, Uber, is now a large public company and is coming under growing scrutiny from city authorities as it competes strongly against traditional taxi companies. Uber is right to turn to on-device and off-device intelligence to build additional layers of protection into its services.