Uber has rolled out a feature that it hopes will give riders some peace of mind on the way to their destinations. As The Verge reports, the new emergency button gives passengers the option to contact 911 from within the Uber app.
The feature is located in the "safety center"—a new section of the app that also contains information about insurance coverage, community guidelines, and the screening process for drivers. To make an emergency call, tap the shield icon in the bottom right corner of the screen and select "911 assistance" from the menu that pops up. The app will ask you to confirm that you wish to dial 911 to avoid any unintentional calls.
All drivers must pass a background check before joining Uber, but that hasn't done much to protect the company's reputation when it comes to safety. CNN reports that 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault or abuse in the past four years. The emergency button is part of a larger effort from the brand to regain customers' trust.
The new feature is a start, but it's not a guarantee that riders will receive the help they need if they find themselves in a threatening situation. Cell phones can only give 911 dispatchers a rough estimate of the caller's location, and if someone is calling from a moving vehicle, that makes the dispatchers' job even harder. Fortunately, in select locations, Uber is also testing a version of the feature that automatically sends the rider's location and trip details to dispatchers when a call is placed.
While most viral Uber horror stories are from the rider's perspective, inviting strangers into their cars creates a safety hazard for drivers as well. A similar emergency button will be added to the driver's side of the app following this current version.
[h/t The Verge]