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Uber unveils ‘Ride Check’ and other in-app safety features

Uber announced new in-app safety features on Wednesday, including "Ride Check" which uses GPS data to check on riders if a car is stopped for an unusually long period of time. / Getty Images / Drew Angerer

Uber on Wednesday unveiled several new, in-app features to help ensure the safety of both riders and drivers.

The most significant new feature is “Ride Check,” through which Uber will send push notifications to drivers and riders if a trip seems odd — if a car is stopped for an unusually long period of time, or is potentially involved in a collision. The company said it’s tapping into its current GPS tracking technology to offer drivers and their passengers the option to contact law enforcement or Uber’s safety line in case of an emergency. The feature is expected to roll out nationwide in the next several months, the company said.

Uber did launch a new “Address Anonymization” feature on Wednesday that will hide specific pickup and drop-off addresses in drivers’ trip histories. Drivers no longer have access to specific addresses in their trip logs, but will instead see a general highlighted area representing the origin and destination.

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To improve street safety, Uber also plans to launch in-app displays alerting drivers if they are speeding, in addition to hands-free options to limit the time drivers must fiddle with their phones during work. A hands-free beta will launch for select drivers next month.

“In the end we want you to know when you get into that car, whether you’re a rider or a driver, Uber’s got your back,” said CEO Dara Khosrowshahi.

The initiatives come as Khosrowshahi marks his first year leading the company, during which he’s prioritized safety and privacy as a way to steer the company out of repeated scandals related to work culture and operating tactics.

“This is just the beginning of the journey for Uber. We want Uber to be the safest transportation platform on the planet,” Khosrowshahi said at a media event in Manhattan on Wednesday morning. “And we think that the combination that we’ve already announced and the features that you’re going to see today are unrivaled in the transportation industry.”

Khosrowshahi’s visit to New York comes after several tense months of rallies for workers’ rights and City Council hearings over tightening regulations of the company in the city. Earlier in August, the City Council passed a package of bills to temporarily cap the number of e-hail vehicles on city streets and provide a base pay standard for drivers.