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Uber brings audio recordings, more safety features to US

Drivers and riders can record audio of their rides in three US cities.

James Martin/CNET

Uber on Thursday unveiled three new safety features it's rolling out for the ride-hailing app. The company will now check in when rides take unexpected routes or have unexpected stops, remind riders to buckle up and allow drivers and riders to record the audio of their trips.

Uber has allowed audio recording in 14 countries in Latin America and is piloting the feature in three American cities: Louisville, Kentucky; Kansas City, Missouri; and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. After the pilot period and soliciting user feedback, the audio recording feature could roll out to more cities across the US, Uber said. Uber did not share a timeline for any possible expansion.

Audio recordings of rides can be submitted to Uber in support of safety reports, which both drivers and riders can submit. The feature is optional, and riders will be alerted when drivers might be recording them, the company said in a blog post. Any audio recording will be stored encrypted on the user's device, and Uber won't automatically receive any recordings. 

"It is the user's choice when to record audio and when to share it with Uber," the company's blog post said.

Uber says the feature has been "a popular way to promote safe, comfortable interactions while on a trip" where it has been introduced and notes that 70% of respondents in Rio de Janeiro reported feeling safer because of the feature.

The company also expanded its RideCheck service, which was introduced in 2019 to detect crashes or unexpected stops, to include unexpected deviations from a ride's route. When RideCheck notices an unusual stop or route, it will send a push notification to rider and driver. Users will then be able to dismiss the notification, contact emergency services or modify their trip. 

Riders will also receive audible seatbelt alerts from the driver's phone at the start of a ride. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans age 54 and younger.