Uber drivers in South Africa have asked that the company help fight crime in the country using the various safety systems it has rolled out in its app.
The head of safety products at Uber, Sachin Kansal, told MyBroadband that he recently met with drivers to introduce a new suite of safety tools in the Uber app.
This included an emergency button which connects Uber users directly to private emergency services and security response when needed through a third-party private security supplier.
In South Africa, Uber had already partnered with Aura to provide emergency services for drivers. The new emergency button expands the safety feature to riders through a partnership with ICEplus.
ICEplus, in turn, has partnered with Vodacom and MTN, private security firms like Excellerate and Securitas, as well as other companies operating within the public safety community such as SA Community Watch.
Along with the emergency button, Uber has launched trusted contacts to allow drivers and riders to send the details of their trip to several people at once, and speed alerts to warn drivers when they exceed the speed limit.
Kansal said that drivers were very appreciative of these new features. They also provided feedback about what safety features have worked for them, and what else they would like to see in the Uber app.
Drivers reported that rider verification for cash fares was very helpful as they were anxious about taking on cash riders in certain locations, at certain times.
“I’m not saying we are done there, we can certainly continue to do more, but the fact that we now require rider verification has made a lot of difference for them,” said Kansal.
They also said that having an emergency number to call has made a big difference in protecting drivers from violence.
Giving Uber drivers access to a dedicated emergency number helped reduce incidents of intimidation and crimes against them not only because they can get help when they need it, but also because it’s a deterrence factor, said Kansal.
“What I heard from them which is unique, as compared to other locations, is that there is a lot of crime in South Africa,” Kansal said.
“While all of that may not be directly related to Uber, they would like us to continue to do more in terms of how we can help them in those situations.”
The communications manager for Uber Africa, Samantha Fuller, related a story where one of their driver partners witnessed a courier being mugged. The driver called the emergency line, and security were able to get to the scene and help the courier.
“What I just thought was so amazing was that you can look after yourself in those situations, but you also become part of a broader community looking after each other,” Fuller said.