Toolkit launched to help keep the Uber community safer
Daily News / 24 October 2018, 10:00am / thobeka ngema
Durban - South Africa is one of 38 countries to get Uber’s Safety Toolkit that was recently launched for Uber’s drivers, delivery partners and passengers using the app across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The toolkit is part of Uber’s plans to double down on security and help make the Uber community safer.
However, not everyone will have access to the features immediately because the toolkit is being introduced in a phased rollout.
In January, an Uber driver was robbed by a passenger. He was contacted by a passenger for a pick-up in Phoenix to go to KwaMashu, but when they arrived in KwaMashu, the passenger pulled out a gun and pointed it at the driver. Another suspect arrived and demanded his cellphone and cash, and forced the driver into the boot of the car.
In other cases, Uber drivers were attacked by metered taxi drivers who felt they were stealing their business.
In August last year, an Uber driver was fatally shot and his body dumped in a field in Joburg.
In July, 2016, a woman was kidnapped and raped after getting into a taxi she thought was an Uber in Johannesburg.
Uber users have also taken to Twitter to share some of their horrific Uber experiences, such as drivers not letting them out or behaving inappropriately.
Since the start of this year, KwaZulu-Natal police have warned Uber, Taxify and metered taxi drivers about robberies. Townships have been hot spots for these robberies and hijackings. Police wanted to work with Uber and Taxify drivers to help prevent them becoming victims of these crimes.
“With more than 15 million trips on the Uber app every day, there is nothing more important than the safety of riders, drivers and couriers. Over the last year we’ve been working to develop innovative products that increase transparency, accountability and peace of mind for all users. The roll-out of our new Safety Toolkit features is the next step in making sure we’re helping everyone stay safe and connected, wherever you might be,” said Sachin Kansal, Uber’s global head of safety product.
Durban Uber driver Ayanda Sokhulu felt the kit “could help”.
“We’ll see how helpful it is once we get it. At least they are trying to help us, with everything that we’re going through as Uber drivers.”
He said if he had to be in a hijacking situation, he would not fight, but try to co-operate.
“I do, however, try to avoid accepting rides that will take me to places I do not feel comfortable in,” he said.
“When you hear about someone you know being attacked, it scares you. It can happen to me,” he said.
A frequent Uber user said she was happy with the toolkit because it showed Uber was trying to raise the bar on safety.
“I love the emergency button and adding trusted contacts,” she said. “Uber drivers don’t drive fast, but drivers are not the same. I usually travel late in the evening on weekends and other drivers drink, so it will make me feel safer because their speed will be monitored.”
At night she would usually call drivers she had become familiar with and ask them to move closer to her location so she could send an Uber request.