Since the advent of cars in the late 19th century, getting into a stranger’s vehicle, otherwise known as hitchhiking, has been frowned upon due to the associated safety issues.
However, in this modern age, with e-hailing services such as Uber, this has become the norm. But, what about the issues of safety for both the driver and passenger?
With an estimate of over 131 million monthly active users, Uber has taken over the market. The app has, over the years, introduced numerous safety features. Here are the latest:
September 2022: In-app emergency button
This was introduced in Nigeria. Uber announced a partnership with Sety to offer consumers emergency help while on the road. Here in South Africa, the organisation worked AURA to achieve the same goal. With a linked device, drivers and passengers have access to a vetted private security response unit nearest to where they are situated.
September 2022: Audio recording
In the event of a safety problem, Uber now allows customers and drivers to share audio from their trip as proof.
September 2022: Safety check-up
This feature set allows passengers to complete their safety profile by activating and using features such as trusted contacts, pin verification, and RideCheck.
June 2022: SAPS collaboration
As part of its commitment to safety, Uber launched a Safety Sessions Programme in partnership with the SAPS to address safety issues identified by drivers and delivery personnel on the platform.
‘’Technology apps like Uber have improved safety by creating accountability and transparency where previously there was none. However, when it is time to request a ride, there are moments you’re unsure about what to do,’’ said the e-hailing app.
In this event, Uber advised that you:
Verify your driver and vehicle before getting into the vehicle
As soon as the driver accepts your request, the Uber app displays information about both your driver and the vehicle.
‘’Wait for your driver in a well-lit, safe place, ideally with someone. It is never a good idea to have your phone visible outside, in the dark, or to wait alone if at all possible.’’
When the vehicle arrives, be sure to identify the registration plate and cross-check with the app
Check that both the vehicle make and colour matches – an image of the vehicle colour and type is provided in the app. You can also ask for your driver’s name and check the in-app photo. Additionally, you have the ability to click into and enlarge the driver photo in-app.
Opt-in to the Verify Your Ride feature
You can do this by navigating to the app settings and tapping "Verify Your Ride". From there, you can choose to use the feature, which uses a pin to help make sure you get into the right car, on every trip or only during evening trips (9pm - 6am).
Further driver verification
Real-Time ID Check is another function accessible to riders that encourages drivers to snap a selfie before taking trips and matches it to the driver's profile photo. This ensures that the individual driving corresponds to the account registered on the app.
Share your journey with your trusted contacts
Riders can keep their loved ones updated on their travel plans. Cyclists may add up to five friends and family members as trusted contacts and opt to be asked to share trip details with them with a simple touch throughout every journey. In addition, all Uber app trips are GPS recorded from start to finish so there is a record of your trip if something goes wrong.
Trust your intuition
There is no need to exchange personal information with your driver; Uber offers an anonymous communication method to ensure that riders and drivers do not need to share personal information.
The Uber app allows you to contact a driver at any moment. If something does not seem right, go with your gut instinct. In the event of an emergency, just hit the shield symbol on the map to activate the in-app emergency button and notify emergency contacts.
24/7 call centre
Uber’s call centre or “Centre of Excellence” which is based in Cairo, Egypt, serves some African countries and the Middle East in assisting both drivers and riders if incidents are reported.
The company recently gave IOL Business an exclusive look inside the premises. It offers 24/7 support to customers via email, phone and live chat.
According to Uber, there are 345 agents in this centre dedicated to ensuring that you get the help you need. This includes the quality assurance team and incident response team (IRT).
The IRT is tasked with giving fast, accurate and empathetic responses to incidents that have been reported. These could be urgent safety issues, injured drivers or riders, safety check-ups and more.
‘’We cannot guarantee your safety but have the right tools to help you should you encounter any issues,’’ said Uber.
Writer Xolile Mtembu was a guest at Uber’s Centre of Excellence in Cairo for the #UberEgyptExperience.