Ride-hailing service Uber has announced another program designed to improve safety, following a series of security issues over the past several months.
Uber has inked a deal with India-based safety-tracking app SafetiPin to help provide new insight into areas around India's capital territory of New Delhi. As part of the agreement, Uber drivers will receive training and work with SafetiPin safety auditors at night to collect information.
SafetiPin is a free app that collects data on locations around a city and scores them for safety based on nine parameters, including lighting, visibility and more. The company relies on users to collect information and then employs "professionally trained auditors" to give a particular location its safety score.
Following the test program in India, Uber said the initiative will be rolled out in the coming months to some of its other global markets, including Bogota, Colombia, and Nairobi, Kenya.
San Francisco-based Uber performs background checks on drivers, but a number of its drivers have faced a string of allegations over the past several months, including dozens of claims of sexual assault, groping, kidnapping and physical assault, according to media outlets.
In December, a 26-year-old woman in New Delhi was allegedly assaulted by an Uber driver, who was later arrested. Just days later, an Uber driver in Boston was car .of rape, assault to rape, kidnapping, and two counts of assault and battery after allegedly attacking a young woman in his Uber
Last month, car cameras., saying that the company failed to provide adequate safety protocols. The woman, who was not identified in the lawsuit, said that Uber should update its security by providing a 24-hour customer support hotline and in-
At the end of 2014, SafetiPin issued a public response to the alleged rape in New Delhi. The company conducted a safety audit along the route the driver took to offer greater insight into the area where it happened. SafetiPin said at the time that while Uber was at the center of the controversy and its security policies should be enhanced, the incident shined a light on "broader issues" affecting India's citizens.
"While strengthening [Uber's security] systems is crucial, it is also useful to work on broader issues such as making our cities safer and more comfortable for women to use -- improving public spaces in cities," the company wrote last year. "The condition of roads, the street lights, visible policing, the presence of people, and availability of public transport are all factors that impact the safety and accessibility of public spaces."
Uber has acknowledged that it needs to improve its approach to security. In December, the company's head of global safety, Phillip Cardenas, said in a blog post that Uber has "more work to do" in safety, adding that his company "is committed to developing new technology tools that improve safety, strengthen and increase the number of cities and countries where background checks are conducted and improve communication with local officials and law enforcement."
In November, Uber started a safety review to identify new technologies, such as biometrics and voice verification, that could enhance driver screenings and background checks. Uber also said it is working to make it easier for riders to communicate with the company and is building "Safety Incident Response teams" to provide support to customers during emergencies. That auditof a panic button that lets India's riders immediately call for help from the app.
Uber said the partnership between the companies will begin Wednesday and run for five months. During that period, Uber will collect data on New Delhi streets and have its drivers take photographs at night to add more detail to SafetiPin's safety reports, or safety "audits." The company then hopes to provide the new information to local officials to improve safety around New Delhi.
"These results will play a crucial role in providing an analysis of safety and security in various parts of the city," an Uber spokesman said. He added that the audits will also help drivers and riders "make informed decisions while commuting."
SafetiPin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.