Nowadays it seems that everyone you speak to is hesitant to use Ubers services.The level of safety, the condition of their cars and the quality of the service and cost are some of the many voiced concerns of passengers and individuals who are hesitant to use the service.
Passengers complain about drivers arriving to pick them up dilapidated, unclean, cars that are not roadworthy.
To find out more about Uber’s safety measures and what they are doing to improve their procedures we interviewed Mphabantshi, Uber Head of Safety, SSA. Here is what he had to say about Uber’s response to community concerns.
How is Uber responding to the safety concerns raised by customers and drivers around the world in recent times?
Uber has a dedicated team working across Sub-Saharan Africa and around the world to support this commitment to safety, and we are always looking for ways to improve. We have contributed to new safety benefits that weren’t possible before, such as giving people a new way to avoid drunk driving and tracking every trip with GPS.
Can you provide an overview of the safety measures and protocols Uber has in place to ensure the well-being of both passengers and drivers during rides?
Real-Time ID Check: This technology aims to ensure that the driver is the same person who signed up i.e. aims to reduce instances of “Imposter Drivers”. Drivers are required at random and ongoing intervals to take a ‘selfie’ that is verified against our database with facial recognition technology to ensure that the correct driver is behind the wheel.
Verify your PIN allows you to ride with a PIN. You can opt in to this feature to help make sure you’re getting into the right car with the right driver.
Emergency assistance button: With the push of a button in the app, users can connect directly to private emergency services and security responses when needed through a third-party private security supplier. This feature is Powered by Aura.
Audio recording: This is an opt-in feature that enables riders and drivers to record audio during a trip as evidence in case of a safety incident.
Follow My Ride: enables you to share your trip with your trusted contacts (friends and family) so they can track your trip on the map and will know as soon as you arrive.
Trusted Contacts: Riders can designate up to five friends and family members as Trusted Contacts to be prompted to share trip details with them during every ride or night-time trips.
Safety Check Up: this feature harnesses the power of GPS, along with other sensors from the driver’s smartphone, to identify rare events like unexpected stops or possible crashes. In these situations, Uber can initiate a Ride Check by reaching out to both the rider and the driver to offer assistance.
Tracking every trip with GPS technology: There’s a record of every trip from start to finish.
Facilitates door-to-door service, 24/7: The car comes directly to passengers within minutes – wherever they are.
Driver Profile: enables you to see your driver before you step into their car. You can see their rating, how many trips they’ve completed, how long they’ve been driving, compliments from previous riders, Vehicle details such as the Licence Plate number, Make, Model & Colour of the vehicle.
Trip Anonymization: Enables you to make calls and send messages through the app without using your personal number.
Speed Alerts: A feature which reminds drivers to maintain a safe speed within the posted speed limits.
Driving Hour Limits: The amount of time drivers spend on the road is limited to help reduce the risk of drowsy driving.This feature prompts drivers to go offline for six hours straight from the app after a total of 12 hours of being online.
2-way Ratings: The two-way rating system maintains an enjoyable Uber experience and helps keep riders and drivers safe. Riders and drivers can hold each other accountable during rides if their behaviour is at odds with our Community Guidelines.
Injury Protection: where in the unfortunate event of an accident or a crime-related incident resulting in an injury during a trip, riders, drivers and delivery-partners will be covered on the road. At no cost to themselves.
What actions is Uber taking to address issues such as background checks for drivers and their overall vetting process, in order to enhance safety standards globally?
All drivers must undergo a process before gaining access to the app as a verified driver. This includes the submission of a valid PrDP , Criminal Background Checks, third-party driving evaluation and vehicle inspection.
Drivers must also undergo safety training for acceptable conduct based on Uber standards. We also have features in place to ensure that the person driving matches the account we have on file.
How is Uber planning to improve its incident reporting and response procedures to ensure swift and appropriate action is taken?
Given South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world, Uber collaborated with AURA in 2016 to enhance the safety of its users on the platform, which is an extension of what riders and earners can have independently as well.
The collaboration provides earners and riders on the Uber platform access to a vetted private security response and medical emergency response unit, which is closest to their location, using a connected device.
The AURA platform uses machine learning and AI to draw on private security companies’ widespread power and hone its system to ensure that the closest responders are dispatched to a distress call.
How is Uber working with local authorities and law enforcement agencies to address safety concerns and ensure a collaborative approach in resolving issues, particularly in areas where safety incidents have been reported?
Uber Law Enforcement Operations consists of two teams, Outreach and Response. The Outreach team is made up of former law enforcement professionals turned regional liaisons, whose primary responsibility is to engage and partner with law enforcement at all levels. Another component of this is the Law Enforcement Response Team (LERT). Their primary responsibility is to respond to law enforcement requests for information on emergency incidents which operates 24/7.
Can you elaborate about Uber’s new GPS feature “RideCheck” and share any other tech that Uber is using to enhance its safety measures?
RideCheck which can detect anomalies, like an unexpected long stop, and proactively surface tools riders and drivers may need to get help with. When a RideCheck is initiated, both the rider and the driver will receive a notification asking if everything is OK.
They can let us know through the app that all is well or take other actions like using the in-app emergency button. This technology will continue to evolve, and we are working to add additional scenarios to RideCheck.
Are there any regional partnerships or collaborations with local authorities and organisations in South Africa to further enhance safety for Uber users and drivers?
As part of Uber’s commitment to safety, the company initiated a Safety Sessions Programme in 2022 in collaboration with South African Police Service (SAPS) to help address the safety concerns raised by drivers and delivery people on the Uber platform.