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Uber brings app safety features to more drivers and riders

After alleged attacks and sexual assaults by its drivers, the ride-hailing company is launching Safety Toolkit in dozens of countries.

uber-app-in-london
Uber

Uber rolled out new in-app safety features to 38 countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East this week. Dubbed Safety Toolkit, the collection of features lets riders and drivers share trip details, access safety information and contact emergency services.

People using the ride-hailing company's service can also set up two-factor authentication as an extra layer of security, as well as anonymize their pickup and drop-off locations so drivers won't be able to keep exact trip location information after the fact.

Uber

These features were added to the US version of the app earlier this year and expanded in September.

The move comes as Uber has been under continued criticism for alleged assaults, rapes and kidnappings that happen during its rides. A handful of states in the US, including California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Texas, have previously launched investigations into Uber, claiming it routinely fails to adequately screen drivers. 

On top of that is turmoil between taxi and Uber drivers around the world. Protests, beatings and attacks have been reported in New York, Paris, Mexico City and Johannesburg because taxi drivers are upset that Uber is taking their customers.

Uber's safety also came under scrutiny in London last year. The city's transport regulator refused to renew the company's private-hire license over "a lack of corporate responsibility" in regard to not reporting serious criminal offenses by drivers and not conducting sufficient background checks. London eventually agreed to renew Uber's license in June for a 15-month probationary period after the company pledged to address those concerns.

Now in more than 70 countries worldwide, Uber says it's working to make its platform safer. Part of this is launching Safety Toolkit. The feature is found by tapping the shield icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the app. 

"With more than 15 million trips on the Uber app every day, there is nothing more important than the safety of riders, drivers and couriers," Sachin Kansal, Uber's global head of safety product, said in a statement. "Over the last year we've been working to develop innovative products that increase transparency, accountability and peace of mind for all users."

Uber, which is aiming for an initial public offering in 2019, said it'll also include a safety information hub in the app, where people can find information on the safety tools and contact Uber's 24/7 team.

First published Oct. 17, 11:54 a.m. PT.
Update, Oct. 19 at 8:54 a.m.:
Includes information on expansion of Safety Toolkit to Africa and Middle East and additional background. 

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