The ride-sharing app is bulking up its safety features, including a new 911 service that'll connect riders with emergency responders at the touch of a button.Keeping people safe is a big responsibility, and one that Uber doesn't take lightly. Which is why the ride-sharing company unveiled a slew of new safety features that'll keep both its drivers and riders in check. The app's improvements include yearly background checks on drivers and, most notably, a 911 service button that'll connect riders with emergency services. The 911 service within the app, called 911 Assistance, will not only connect the rider with local emergency responders, but it will send the user's real-time location -- as a map and an address -- as well as a description of the vehicle and the trip details to the 911 operator. [caption id="attachment_36041" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Courtesy of Uber[/caption]
"We take the responsibility of keeping our users safe very seriously. We think that applying technology to solve safety problems is the right thing to do for Uber," said Sachin Kansal, Uber's Safety Products Manager. "We're listening to our riders as well as our drivers and they're asking to be able to get in touch with emergency services as fast as possible."Uber is working with RapidSOS to bring the emergency service feature to Denver for a trial run. When the pilot program will be implemented has yet to be announced, but we estimate it happening in the next few months. In addition, Uber has said that it's partnering with the National Emergency Number Association to "improve communications between the nation's thousands of 911 centers." At least 80 percent of 911 calls are made on cell phones, according to Uber, and sometimes those calls are routed to the wrong 911 center. This partnership will streamline the system, helping emergency dispatchers to connect callers to the correct 911 center at a faster, more accurate rate.
[gallery type="rectangular" size="large" ids="36038,36039"] The company has also created an in-app "safety center" that will provide the necessary information to riders on driver-screening processes, insurance protections, and community guidelines. If riders desire an extra level of security, the app will allow them to designate up to five friends and family members as trusted contacts. They'll have the ability to share trip details with those select individuals, if they so desire. Another big concern for riders is that anyone can sign up to become a driver. While potential Uber drivers must pass a background review, many have claimed that it's insufficient and more could be done. Uber said in a statement, "While no background check is perfect, our process is thorough, fair, and relevant to the work at hand." They've vowed to "proactively rerun criminal and motor vehicle checks each year, regardless of whether there is a legal obligation to do so" and "invest in technology" that identifies criminal offenses. What do you think of the new safety features Uber will be rolling out? Do you think the new 911 service will be effective? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and let's get the conversation started.