In an effort to increase the safety of its passengers, as well as help law enforcement locate callers, Uber has officially launched its 911 in-app calling feature, according to TechCrunch. First announced in April, the feature allows customers to contact law enforcement by taping a safety icon in the bottom right corner of the app.
Thanks to the location-dependent nature of Uber, the function will make it easy to inform dispatchers of your exact location. The company is currently testing RapidSOS integration in seven cities to automatically share a user’s location with 911. The safety icon also includes the option of sending the details of your trip to a trusted contact, in case you want to alert a worried family member or friend of your location.
Uber is testing the location-sharing service in various cities in the U.S. based on “how fast some of [the cities] were able to move in terms of training agents and testing functionality,” Uber director of product management Sachin Kansal told TechCrunch. The company eventually hopes to implement the feature everywhere.
Uber decided to develop the safety service after research “found out that accurate location of the caller is one of the biggest problems," Kansal said. "Whenever you call 911, the first question is often, ‘What is your location?'”
Since Uber’s business is location, the company figured it only made sense to integrate its function for emergency assistance. “At the end of the day, when a user is in an emergency, we want them to use whatever will be the fastest mechanism for them in that moment in time,” Kansal said. “If they’re already in a phone dialer, call 911 from there.”
One of the biggest concerns with ridesharing services is the passenger's safety, often at risk in the hands of the wrong driver. Assault and harassment are commonly reported. With this in mind, the new safety feature will not alert drivers when a rider seeks assistance, but they can, of course, still hear you talking on the phone. The company emphasizes that Uber will not know what the rider tells 911 unless it explicitly alerts the company. After contacting law enforcement, Uber will send a message asking if the company can do anything to assist you.
Uber also plans to add a similar function for drivers later this summer.