Why it matters: CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is on a mission to repair Uber's tarnished reputation. Adding new features to make riders feel safer about stepping into a stranger's vehicle also has the potential to corral bad behavior before it even materializes. Smart move.
Uber in April announced several new improvements to double down on safety in its app including adding a way for riders to reach out to 911. On Tuesday, the latter feature officially launched in the US.
The panic button can be found by tapping a new safety icon within the Uber app. Here, you’ll have the ability to contact authorities, share your tip information with friends and family, add trusted contacts and learn more about Uber’s safety policies.
Uber has partnered with RapidSOS to pilot automatic location sharing with 911 dispatchers in select cities including Charleston, South Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Denver, Colorado; Naples, Florida; Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky. According to Uber Director of Product Management Sachin Kansal, partner cities were selected based on their readiness, or how quickly they were able to move in terms of training and testing.
Your current location is also shown within the Uber app - information that can be relayed directly to a 911 operator during a call.
The feature is primarily aimed at riders although Kansal says a panic button for drivers is also in the works and will be added to the app soon.
Even if the feature isn’t used all that often, its presence alone could be enough to deter people from acting out. As Kansal highlights, a lot of criminal activity happens when people think they aren’t being watched. With the new feature, Kansal said they just want to note that they are “turning the lights on” and to make the entire community aware of the presence of the features.