Uber Australia rolls out Safety Toolkit, emergency button

By @chelean on
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ride-sharing app Uber Dara Khosrowshahi pictured on stage during an event in New York City, New York, U.S., September 5, 2018.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ride-sharing app Uber Dara Khosrowshahi pictured on stage during an event in New York City, New York, U.S., September 5, 2018. Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Uber Australia and New Zealand has introduced a new Safety Toolkit feature following a series of sexual assault allegations involving drivers from the ride-sharing company. The company will be rolling out a few features that will make contacting emergency operators easier and faster in the coming weeks.

Starting Wednesday, Uber added an emergency assistance button, which allows users to call 000 directly from their app. The button will be accessible directly from the rider home screen or driver-partner map during each trip. Their current location in the app, both on a map and as an address, will be shown to emergency operators.

Riders will also begin to see a “shield” icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the map screen while they are on trip. This feature, which will be available over the coming weeks, allows users — both drivers and riders — access to the Safety Centre by tapping it.

Uber will also add Trusted Contacts. Riders and drivers can choose up to five family and friends as their Trusted Contacts. They can share their whereabouts and trip status immediately to their chosen five with the tap of a button.

As Uber Australia and NZ general manager Susan Anderson explained, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who has been cleaning up the company’s image since inheriting the title from founder Travis Kalanick last year, wanted to be “very clear that safety (was) our number one priority.”

Anderson said the new emergency assistance shortcut would use technology from the passengers’ smartphones to help authorities identify their location.

“It’s a feature that shows your real-time location on a map, but also as a GPS address so you can share it directly with law enforcement,” she was quoted by news.com.au as saying. “We know that law enforcement is finding this particularly useful when investigating if there are incidents because they can find out where a rider’s phone was, where a driver’s phone was, and that can give real, concrete technical timestamps that help them build a case.”

Anderson also said that Uber had hired former New South Wales police detective Justin Gallagher as the company’s law enforcement liaison in Australia.

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