- Uber Technologies pioneered the open-access peer-to-peer ride-sharing model a decade ago, and is now operating in 67 countries with investment in multinational services continuing to grow
- Increasing concerns about criminal incidents and other problem behaviors has led the company to enhance its responsiveness to users’ safety, in regard to both drivers’ and passengers’ well-being
- The newest feature to launch will be an audio recording that can be enabled by either a driver or a passenger as an evidentiary tool
- The feature will test launch in Mexico and Brazil in December, with expectations of introducing it in the United States at a future point once state-by-state privacy laws are adequately addressed
Global peer transportation pioneer Uber Technologies Inc. (NYSE: UBER) is preparing to roll out an audio recording feature that will further enhance its safety measures in an attempt to provide peace of mind to the service’s drivers and passengers.
The feature will allow passengers and drivers to activate inalterable, encrypted audio recordings that users can ask the feature to submit to Uber’s customer support team if there is a need to report a safety issue, according to media reports confirmed by the company (http://ibn.fm/lB2lK). The recording will serve as a tool to help users “prove” the nature of a complaint if necessary.
Uber will store the recordings in case the user decides to submit a report after some delay following an incident, according to the company.
Uber has been increasing its responsiveness to safety concerns during recent months following a number of troubling situations reported to the company that have also gained media attention, including incidents in which alleged criminals have falsely presented themselves as Uber drivers in a bid to harm riders using the service. The company launched its Campus Safety Initiative to help students learn how to avoid fake ride share drivers (http://ibn.fm/bZiqK), followed by a new RideCheck feature that uses smartphones’ location sensors to analyze the movements of Uber’s vehicles (http://ibn.fm/KQI3W) and an in-app panic button for contacting 911.
The newest safety feature will begin testing in December in Mexico and Brazil, with plans to introduce it to the United States at an as-yet undetermined time afterward.
“Laws in the United States around consent to being recorded can vary from state to state, but we hope to be able to make this available nationally,” an email written by an Uber executive and subsequently published by The Washington Post states (http://ibn.fm/l2ajx).
Many states’ privacy laws require that all persons who may appear in an audio recording be notified and consent to being recorded, while some states only require that one person – ostensibly the one making the recording — be aware of the recording. Uber’s initial approach is to issue a blanket statement to the service’s users to notify them that they may be subject to an audio recording.
“We have taken a position that whenever you are in an Uber, the feeling that we want both parties to have is ‘the lights are on,’” Uber safety products director Sachin Kansal told The Post. “That leads to safer interaction on the platform.”
There is no notification sent to the driver or rider when the recording begins, part of an effort to avoid potentially escalating an already worrisome situation. Drivers can set the feature to automatically record all transports.
Mexico and Brazil, where the feature’s rollout will occur, represent Latin America’s two largest markets. Uber was operating in 67 countries as of its November 5 quarterly filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (http://ibn.fm/MsXEf), covering the period through the end of September. The lion’s share of the company’s revenues come from operations in the United States, but the company continues to make significant investments to expand its international operations and compete with ride share services that are local to foreign markets.
For more information, visit the company’s website at www.Uber.com