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Uber app in India lets friends and family track users

The taxi-hailing app introduces two passenger-safety features to address the challenges it faces in the country.

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Uber

Uber has unveiled more new passenger safety features for its taxi-hailing services in India, following reports earlier this week that the app was due to include a panic button for rider safety for its Indian user base.

These new security features come as part of Uber's pledge to increase quality and security of the taxi rides for passengers following legal controversy in India and an alleged rape involving an Uber driver.

The San Francisco-based company is taking other steps in India, including background checks that go beyond government verification and a stricter rating system for its drivers, which has been in place since December.

"At the moment these two new in-app features are available across all 11 cities in India where Uber is available," said Karun Arya, the company's communication lead for South Asia. "We don't have any update at this point on which cities, countries or a timeframe for rollout elsewhere. But stay tuned for updates."

While these safety features are fresh additions to Uber's interface, taxi-hailing apps such as Asia-based Grabtaxi offered similar safety notification services long before Uber's implementation.

Uber's new Send Status is intended to keep your friends and family aware of your commute. This function fires off your trip details -- such as the driver's name, vehicle license number and current location of the taxi -- to five preassigned contacts, at your discretion.

Uber

Send Status replaces the previous Share my ETA feature, and does not incur SMS fees when used. The pre-selected contacts will receive an Uber URL that provides a live-tracking of the passenger's status as they make their way around town.

If needed, the SOS button found at the top right of the app's screen will trigger a call to the local authorities. Both features are already available in the Android version of Uber.

Earlier this year, Uber removed its driver's commission fee to cope with operational difficulties in India. In December, a 26-year-old woman reported being sexually assaulted and beaten after hailing an Uber ride in South Delhi, resulting in the city's government blacklisting the app.

The incident highlighted rising concerns about Uber's safety and legality in India's taxi-driving economy. Uber's legal struggles in the rest of Asia are widespread, and ongoing.