At a press conference in Bengaluru on Thursday, Uber announced a couple of new safety initiatives focused on its drivers, as a part of its UberSAFE campaign. Speaking at the event, Pradeep Parameswaran, Head of Central Operations, Uber India, said that safety doesn't just refer to riders, or even to driver behaviour, but to the overall safety of the ecosystem.
"Whether you're behind the wheel or sitting in the back seat of the car, Uber's commitment to safety for everyone is unwavering," Parameswaran said. "We will continue to invest in technology and innovation to help ensure a safe, reliable trip from beginning to end."
To that end, the company made two announcements. First, was the announcement of a new feature called Driver Share Trip. Passengers already have the option of sharing their trips - to up to five pre-programmed numbers - and the people you send this information to can see your destination, and your location.
Now, Uber drivers will also have this option, so that even if they're working late, for example, the drivers can share their location with their families, letting them know where they are, and giving an idea of when they might be home.
Parameswaran added that the feature protects the privacy of the passengers by not divulging their personal information, or showing the specific pickup and drop-off points. Although he didn't mention it specifically, this could also help in case the driver is getting calls from friends or family asking where they are, as the information could now be shared with a couple of taps.
The second initiative from Uber is a driver deduplication process. Parameswaram explained: "We carry out a number of checks during the onboarding process, do a background check, police verification in states where the data is good, but one of the issues is duplicate driver accounts."
The drivers could have created new accounts because they forgot their IDs, or changed phone numbers, and deduplication will make Uber's database more effective, Parameswaran said. He added that the company also has a number of new features to ensure better rider safety, such as Real Time ID checks - the Uber driver app will randomly ask some drivers to take a selfie, which is verified in real time using an AI algorithm, to ensure that the person driving the car is the same person registered with Uber.
Apurva Dalal, Head of Engineering, Uber India, added that the company has been bringing about a number of additional features as a part of the UberSAFE campaign, highlighting the partnership with the Delhi police, integrating the police's Himmat app for women's safety.
"At Uber, being innovative means leading the way," he said. "At every step, we are maximising the usage of technology to bring transparency and accountability through features such as two-way feedback, telematics and GPS, among others."