Uber has recently been making more of an effort to improve the safety of its service via features that include Trusted Contacts, an in-app panic button, and a new Safety Center section within the app. A recent clash with the authorities in London also prompted Uber to focus more on safety for not only riders but drivers, too.
Now the ridesharing giant is harnessing the technology inside your smartphone for a new feature that aims to detect when an Uber vehicle crashes. For sure, this is a rare event, but when it happens, a speedy arrival by first responders could be the difference between life and death.
Using built-in smartphone sensors such as the accelerometer and gyroscope together with GPS data from hundreds of millions of Uber rides, the new feature, called Ride Check, is able to detect with a high degree of accuracy whether the Uber vehicle you’re riding in has been involved in an accident.
When Ride Check kicks into action, both the rider and the driver will receive an alert to their smartphones asking if they’ve been in a crash. If they have, a number of options come up, including one-tap buttons for 911 and Uber’s safety line. Alternatively, if the ride is going just fine, you can tap another button to let the system know that everything’s OK.
You might believe you’d be perfectly capable of making an emergency call by yourself without any prompt from Uber, but the disorientation than can follow a serious accident means you might not even think about calling 911. And consider this: What if the accident is so serious that neither you nor the driver can respond? If Uber’s notification receives no response, its safety team will be alerted to the possibility of a serious incident, thereby allowing it to take quick action.
Variations of Uber’s crash-detection technology are already in use. San Francisco-based Zendrive, for example, has been developing the technology for a number of years, while GM’s OnStar system is also designed to automatically contact first responders in the event of a smash.
Ride Check can also alert Uber to potential security issues, too. For example, if the Uber vehicle stops for longer than what appears to be necessary, Ride Check will send a message asking if everything’s all right. Response options include hitting the app’s emergency button or reporting any problem to Uber’s critical safety line.
The Ride Check feature, which is expected to roll out in the next few months, was announced on Wednesday by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Now a year in the job, the former Expedia CEO was hired to help sort out the company after several years of increasingly chaotic leadership under its founder, Travis Kalanick.