Uber adds a panic button in India to protect passengers

6 Feb 2015

Responding to the alleged rape of a woman in Delhi by an Uber driver in December, the e-hailing service has developed an in-app panic button that will be rolled out to users in India next week.

Following the incident, which led to the arrest of a suspect, Delhi joined a growing list of cities throughout the world that has banned the Uber service.

The company unveiled plans for the new measures via a blog post. Uber wrote it wanted to settle “some misconceptions” around its safety policy following Times Of India reports that the Mumbai transportation department was considering a ban on Uber as it had not implemented promised new security measures.

“Uber has not given a satisfactory assurance on the new security measures (required by the department) and it appears it wants to put the onus of passenger safety on a cab’s owner and driver,” said the department.

As well as the panic button that allows a rider to alert local police in case of an emergency, location sharing features called ‘Safety Net’ will be introduced, meaning customers will now be able share their trip details and real-time location with up to five friends and family members.

Uber also pointed to existing safety features, such as the sharing of all driver and vehicle data with the Indian transport department and traffic police to aid the police verification process. 

“Our goal is to make Uber the safest place in the city,” wrote Uber’s general manager in Mumbai, Shailesh Sawlani. “To do this, we will continue to leverage our technology and operational scale to deliver rides that bring unprecedented transparency and accountability to your transportation experience.”

Battling controversy

Uber has been on a charm offensive recently as it attempts to fight back against a slew of negative headlines. The firm announced a price drop in 48 US cities while claiming the cuts will lead to drivers actually being paid more as the adjusted model will increase driver demand, leading to more trips every hour and more earnings for every hour on the road.

In addition, Uber has announced plans for an expansion in Europe that the company says will create 50,000 jobs.

Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick announced the strategy at the DLD15 Conference in Munich last month, in a move that has likely been plotted to bring regulators onside. 

“We want to make 2015 the year where we establish a new partnership with EU cities,” said Kalanick. “I think I’m going to be spending a little more time here in Europe.”

India image via Shutterstock

Dean Van Nguyen was a contributor to Silicon Republic