How Uber keeps its drivers safe in South Africa

Uber has seen great success in South Africa, offering commuters affordable and safe transport.

Being an Uber driver is also a popular profession in South Africa due to its accessibility, and Uber head for Sub-Saharan Africa Alon Lits told MyBroadband there is a waiting list for driver-partner applicants in Johannesburg.

The ride-hailing app has encountered obstacles throughout its rollout in South Africa, however, most notably major pushback from metered taxi drivers.

Upset with the proliferation of cheaper competition, traditional metered taxi drivers began to protest the adoption of Uber by attacking drivers.

Uber appealed to law enforcement to assist in protecting its driver-partners, and began to implement its own measures to curb the assaults.

These security measures are paying off, with the company telling MyBroadband the number of attacks have declined.

Changes made to the Uber platform to improve the safety of drivers, many of which are unique to South Africa, are detailed below.

In-app features

A number of in-app security features were available at launch, including GPS tracking of drivers.

Uber started to implement more safety features in 2016, focused on the dangers of speeding and driving while tired.

The driver app now reminds drivers to take a break when they have been driving for too long, making them aware of the risks of driving while distracted and tired.

Uber also added a feature which analyses a driver’s driving patterns and compares them to others in the city. This is aimed at helping drivers identify problem areas such as speeding.

It was in 2017 that the company focused on security features, with the launch of the Share My Trip and Cash Indicator features.

Share My Trip allows drivers to share their trip information with family or friends, while maintaining the privacy of the rider and their drop-off or pick-up points.

The Cash Indicator allows Uber drivers to decide whether to accept a cash trip or not, with no penalty applied for rejecting cash trips.

Cash trips could be more dangerous for drivers, especially if they are in dangerous areas, as robbery is a risk.

Security response

When Uber launched in South Africa in 2013, it had dedicated Greenlight Hubs for driversin every city in which it operated.

It has continued this practice, although its hubs in major cities have grown exponentially and service the needs of thousands of drivers every day.

These centres offer training sessions and safety briefings to drivers, allow them to become more knowledgable about crime prevention and other risks.

Uber also added a 24/7 incident response team to deal with critical safety issues and connect with law enforcement.

Following the rise of metered taxi attacks and intimidation in 2017, Uber partnered with multiple security services to dispatch security and medical personnel in reduced time to better protect drivers.

The company also placed security teams at areas of high intimidation, including Gautrain stations.

Near the end of 2017, Uber started requiring riders to submit a valid social media page to verify their identity if they were exclusively using cash payments and did not register a credit card.

This helped to remove the anonymity of cash trips and acts as a deterrent against attacks on drivers.

Attacks against Uber drivers still occur, but the company’s response has been effective in reducing the number and severity of incidents in South Africa.

Uber safety infographic

Now read: Uber launches tipping for drivers in South Africa

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How Uber keeps its drivers safe in South Africa