Uber launches SafetyNet in Boston to set riders at ease

With SafetyNet, riders can quickly send their location and driver information to emergency contacts

Technology trends and news by Ronny Kerr
November 9, 2015
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/414b

You can’t blame Uber for not acting.

The ride-hailing company, which has been plagued by at least a dozen assault charges over its meteoric growth the past couple years, just announced the launch of SafetyNet in Boston, one of the first U.S. cities to see the safety feature.

With SafetyNet, riders can share their estimated time of arrival (ETA) with up to five pre-selected contacts. While taking a ride, the user simply taps "Send Status to Contacts" within the Uber app, confirms the contacts to share with, and then sends their status. The status includes their location on a map plus the driver’s first name and vehicle information.

It’s a quick couple taps designed to make the rider feel more secure.

In the announcement, Uber calls this the start of a “pilot,” with a nationwide rollout following in the coming weeks. We’ve reached out to Uber to clarify which cities currently have SafetyNet available, and to understand when we can expect to see the feature expanded to additional regions.

Word of SafetyNet first surfaced this past February when it launched in Mumbai.

India, which has itself struggled with the issue of sexual assault for several years, has since brought the issue to the forefront after a 23-year-old woman was raped, beaten, and killed on a bus in Delhi in 2012.

Less than a week ago, a former Uber driver in Delhi was found guilty of raping a 26-year-old woman who had booked a ride with him last December. The driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, who was also convicted of criminal intimidation and kidnapping, has been sentenced to life in prison.

After the charges were brought forward, several cities threatened to bar Uber and other ride-hailing companies from operating, motivating the companies to tighten their safety and security standards. Uber specifically decided to expand its driver background checks, establish a local "Incident Response Team," and launch both an in-app panic button and the SafetyNet feature.

As it does around the world, Uber has worked closely with government officials in India to influence and abide by new rules designed to regulate ride-hailing services.

Last month, India’s Ministry of Transport prepared regulatory guidelines that would open the doors to Uber, Bangalore-based Ola Cabs, and similar companies. The government advised state administrations to issue licenses to these providers as long as they followed certain guidelines around emission standards, maximum fares, background checks, and more.

Uber, which has raised over $8 billion in funding, secured nearly $1 billion at the end of July--around the time that Amit Jain, president of Uber India, said the company would be investing as much in India.

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