SAFTEY: Private security guards stand outside Uber’s offices in Parktown.
A cash trips indicator is expected to be introduced by cellphone app-based taxi company, Uber, following recent attacks on its drivers.

Uber South Africa has introduced a new, pilot, cash indicator feature. Uber drivers and representatives of The Movement, an organisation advocating for driver safety, have raised concerns about the freedom to choose cash or card trips.

“The cash indicator allows Uber driver-partners to choose whether they would like to accept a cash trip request or not,” said Uber spokesperson Samantha Allenberg.

“Uber received feedback from driver-partners expressing their need to be able to choose the kind of trips they wanted to accept.

“This feedback came from their focus groups. Uber has taken heed of this request and believes the new cash indicator pilot will address their needs,” said Allenberg.

General manger of Uber South Africa Jonathan Ayache explained the reason for the decision and why it was not feasible to remove the cash option from the app: “While some driver-partners have asked for the cash option to be removed, other driver-partners feel the cash option has opened them up to new riders and provides the consumer with more choice.

“Cash is a dominant payment method in Africa and many riders do not have cards to use on the app. Cash removes the barrier for those without a card who want to use Uber. That’s why it’s not feasible to remove the cash option completely.

“We believe riders should have the freedom to pay for rides how they wish, but we also believe that driver-partners should have the freedom to accept cash trips or not,” Ayache said.

As a technology-based business, he said, Uber had introduced many key safety features that did not exist before the introduction of Uber to South Africa.

However, that did not exclude it from being a target for crime.

Teresa Munchick, spokesperson for The Movement, said: “We are pleased that Uber has taken a step towards addressing the issue of cash trips.

“Accepting cash trips is your choice. However, it appears that this cash trip indicator is not working for a lot of the drivers, and for them there has been no change at all,” she said.

A driver who asked to be anonymous said that when he queried why the feature was not showing, he had been told: “For the time being we are only testing this feature with a select number of partners.”

Munchick added: “Unfortunately, drivers who have not been selected will be lulled into a false sense of security we look forward to it being implemented for all drivers.”