Uber has launched two new features aimed at improving driver security: Social Connect for cash rides, and Share My Trip for Drivers.
The new features are rolling out from today, and follow an attack on cab driver Kgomotso Tiro – who had acid thrown on his face when picking up a fare.
Uber said there was no evidence to suggest the attack on Tiro was related to meter taxi intimidation. A suspect was arrested last week in connection with the attack.
To help improve safety for Uber drivers, and ultimately passengers, Uber has launched Social Connect.
Social Connect will require that new Uber cash customers link their Facebook profile to their Uber account.
Uber said it will then verify the Facebook accounts to ensure that fake profiles aren’t linked to Uber – using factors such as number of friends and linked phone numbers.
Uber said it will also look at enhancing its Facebook verification process as technology evolves, and that no Facebook user data is shared.
“While driver-partners have shown their concern regarding the safety of cash trips, many still do not want to remove the cash option all together,” said Alon Lits, GM for Uber in sub-Saharan Africa.
Social Connect will initially be limited to new sign-ups, with the potential to expand to Uber’s existing cash user base.
Share My Trip for Drivers
Uber is also adding the ability for drivers to share their location from within the app with friends and family – which riders can already do when on a trip.
To protect rider privacy, Uber said Driver Share My Trip will not reveal the pick-up or drop-off location of passengers.
“Drivers who feel insecure in a certain area or at time of day are now encouraged to make use of this additional feature,” said Uber.
Uber said Driver Share My Trip is a pilot running in Johannesburg and Pretoria, with the aim to expand soon.
The Share My Trip feature for drivers follows the implementation of multiple safety features for Uber drivers in South Africa.
This includes a 24-hour emergency number and a partnership with multiple security companies to provide quick response times to drivers in need.
Uber said it will dispatch security or medical assistance wherever a driver might be in South Africa.
All support and emergency calls are also recorded and stored, which Uber said it makes available for criminal investigations upon request.
Uber also introduced a cash indicator for local drivers earlier this year, which shows whether a rider will pay their fare with cash or card.
Drivers are able to decline ride requests from cash customers without impacting their rating with Uber.