Safety summit outlines how use of technology can make Uber safer

16 August 2019 - 13:26 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Uber has had to address passenger and driver safety after several frightening incidents.
Uber has had to address passenger and driver safety after several frightening incidents.
Image: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

With crime a major challenge, Uber is using technology to ensure its customers and drivers enjoy safer trips.

At its first safety summit in SA, held in Johannesburg on Friday, Uber highlighted the use of technology to address the safety concerns of drivers and riders.

Alon Lits, Uber's Sub-Saharan Africa general manager, said there were many benefits to using technology to create community safety.

“We are here to highlight those benefits and, as Uber, we've had to innovate around safety out of necessity,” Lits said, acknowledging incidents of violence that have occurred on Uber trips in the country.

To address some of the safety concerns, Uber introduced panic buttons for drivers and riders, he said.

“The panic button is available on-trip. You can access it through our safety toolkit and that connects to the safety control room, which will then call you back and understand what the emergency is. And depending on the emergency, they will send private security to respond.”

Lits said through technology, Uber had introduced “traceability, trackability and accountability, which previously did not exist in the transportation sector”.

“For us, safety never stops. It's important that we continue to engage with riders, with drivers to understand where the issues are and where can we improve. We can continuously make Uber a choice for you as you move around the city,” he said.

“It's not just about us. We want to create awareness on the technologies that exist to make lives safer.”

Tumi Sole, the founder of #CountryDuty, said through technology he and his team had been able to help communities and Twitter users who had reached out to them for help.

“We bring communities together. There was a story of someone who was assaulted by their step-father. The only thing they had was an iPad. They tagged me. I just retweteed and tagged the minister and the police.

“Technology addresses violence and it breaches the gap between those who are responsible and those who can't do anything,” Sole said.