Uber adds more safety features amid sexual assault concerns

The new features are meant to ensure you get in the right car. Plus: Texts to 911 would include trip details.

Dara Kerr Former senior reporter
Dara Kerr was a senior reporter for CNET covering the on-demand economy and tech culture. She grew up in Colorado, went to school in New York City and can never remember how to pronounce gif.
Dara Kerr
2 min read

Uber is planning to introduce a "verify your ride" opt-in feature, which gives riders a four-digit PIN to make sure they're getting into the right car.


Uber is aiming to make it easier and safer for passengers to connect with the right driver. The ride-hailing company on Thursday announced several upcoming safety features, from the ability to directly text 911 emergency responders to a new technology that uses ultrasound waves for automatically verifying a ride.

"We recognize that becoming an integral part of people's lives comes with real responsibility," Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in a blog post announcing the news.

Uber's announcement comes a day after a report published by the Washington Post detailed how the company's "special investigations unit" allegedly mishandles incidents of rape, kidnapping and assault by its drivers. The report said Uber's agents are pressured to keep drivers working for the company after such allegations, reportedly compromising rider safety. 

Hundreds of passengers and drivers have come forward over the past few years alleging sexual assault during rides. Several lawsuits have been brought against Uber by people saying they were raped and groped by drivers. Similar allegations have been made against Uber's rival Lyft, which has been sued by 18 women over the last month alleging sexual assault by its drivers

Uber has been steadily adding new safety features to its app over the past three years. Last month it launched RideCheck, which sends a push notification to drivers and riders if there's an unexpected long stop or possible crash. And in 2018, Uber introduced several other features, including an emergency 911 button, anonymizing rider pickup and drop-off locations and a way to make it easier for riders to share their trip information with friends and family.

Most of the features announced Thursday focus on helping passengers ensure they're getting in the right car. They include: on-trip reporting, which lets riders report an incident before the trip has ended; verify-your-ride opt in, which gives riders a 4-digit PIN to verify their driver; and ultrasound technology that will automatically transmit the safety PIN to riders' smartphones and if it's the correct driver, the rider's phone will chime or vibrate.

These features come after Samantha Josephson, a South Carolina college student, was murdered in March after getting into a car whose driver was allegedly posing as an Uber driver.

Uber also announced Thursday a way for riders and drivers to send a text to 911 during a ride that will include the trip's details, such as location information and the car's make, model and license plate. The company also said it's working on a real-time identification check feature that prompts a driver to do a random series of basic movements, like blink, smile or turn their head, to ensure they match their profile in the system.

The features Uber announced Thursday are expected to roll out to riders and drivers over the next six months.

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