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Uber looking to bring a new'panic button' safety feature inIndia

Sajee

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Amid safety concerns, Taxi
service company Uber is set to
launch two features in India,
including a “panic button”, after an
Indian woman was allegedly 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.” .

The blog post was written in
response to reports that the
Mumbai’s transport department
plans to recommend to the state
government to ban Uber’s mobile
phone app since the company have
not implemented new security
measures.

Shailesh said, Uber invites the
Mumbai Transportation Department
to discuss these safety issues
before “prescribing a unilateral
standard across the board;
standards that are not conversant
with the ground realities of
technology enabled transportation
systems.”

In the blog post, the Uber
executive reasoned why the
company is launching an online
panic button instead of installing
physical panic buttons in the cars
driven by its drivers and partners.
Uber said physical panic buttons
“cause confusion and are prone to
wear and tear.”

As a technology company, Uber
does not own cars or employ
drivers but partners with
independent contractors who are
licensed to provide commercial
transportation by the government.
The drivers are free to work with
other operators also.

Uber said a driver who works on
four platforms would need to have
four physical panic buttons in the
car.

In a situation of distress the rider
would have to pick the correct
operator’s panic button to be able
to get help on time, a move which
has only a “25 per cent chance of
success; and a decision that has
to be made and executed in a
split-second, if at all.”

“In addition to causing confusion,
we found that not only are
physical buttons prone to wear
and tear, but also mechanical
malfunctions. There is no way to
ensure that they are kept in
working condition across all the
cars in the city,” the company
said.

Uber said in the “broader interest
of rider safety and our efforts to
work with the authorities”, it is
willing to install physical buttons
if there is only one physical panic
button in each car, the duty to
install the button is on the owner
of the vehicle and pressing the
button calls the local police
directly, since they are best
positioned to react to a law and
order situation.

“We believe that this is the most
pragmatic method to install such
buttons, and Uber will be happy to
fund a singular panic button in the
car of an existing or interested
prospective driver-partner on the
Uber platform,” it said.

Uber looking to bring a new 'panic button' safety feature in India Tech2 Mobile
 
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