Concerned at the safety of riders amid growing driver-related incidents in India, cab-hailing company Uber on Thursday introduced three new safety features -- PIN verification before the ride, 'RideCheck' to spot trip irregularities during the ride and in-ride audio recording (to be rolled out as a pilot later this year).
The 'RideCheck' safety feature will enable Uber to flag certain trip irregularities, like long, unexpected stops or midway drops that may indicate an increased safety risk, especially for women.
If an anomaly is detected, Uber will initiate a RideCheck by reaching out to both the rider and the driver.
As part of the PIN authentication feature -- which rival Ola introduced way back in 2017 -- riders will receive a 4-digit PIN at the start of their trip which, once shared with the drivers, will begin the trip.
Uber also said that it would pilot audio recording as a pioneering feature in the Indian market later this year. The in-ride audio recording feature is currently available in Brazil and Mexico.
"Over the past three years, we have introduced several features to enhance safety standards on our platform. Today, we raise the bar again as we work towards introducing audio recording in India as a pilot this year and roll-out the RideCheck feature for long stop and midway drop-offs," said Sachin Kansal, Senior Director of Global Safety Products, Uber.
Once the audio recording feature is introduced, a rider or driver partner will have the choice to record audio through their phone while on-trip.
When the trip ends, the user has the option to report a safety incident and submit the audio recording.
The audio file shall be encrypted and the user cannot listen in to the stored recording on their device, but may choose to send it to Uber's customer support agents, who will use the audio to help better understand an incident and take appropriate actions.
Only Uber will have access to the audio once the user submits it, said the company.
Uber has a partnership with non-profit Manas Foundation, which has conducted thousands of customised 'gender sensitisation workshops' for Uber driver partners.
So far, this initiative has sensitised over 50,000 driver partners across eight cities in the country.
"It gives me immense pleasure to see that Uber and Manas Foundation are working so closely together to implement our suggested gender sensitisation training to driver partners," said Rekha Sharma, Chairperson, National Commission of Women (NCW).
In addition to the PIN, Uber announced that it's working on advanced technologies that will use ultrasound waves to automatically transmit the safety PIN for verifying rides in the future.