Starting next Wednesday, 11th of February, Uber passengers in India will have access to a panic button that will alert the police in case of an emergency, all of this in-app.
Uber previously said that the panic button feature would be available worldwide but they have decided to start on India due to the demand for higher security measures from the transportation department.
Most likely due to the accusation of Rape from a new Delhi woman against a Uber driver, the department tried to ban the service for good and it was halted for several weeks after the reported incident.
This of course required a response from Uber and that was what we got, through its blog, where all the security measures that are in place were described. In those was included a more stringent driver screening program and the general manager then proceeded to explain why they didn’t follow through with the demand to put a physical panic button in their vehicles:
As a technology company, Uber does not own cars or employ drivers. We partner with independent contractors who are appropriately licensed to provide commercial transportation by the government. This means that these drivers are free to work with other operators.
Imagine you enter the vehicle of a driver who works on four platforms. His/ her car will need to have four physical panic buttons. In a situation of distress the rider would have to pick the correct operator’s panic button to be able to get help on time. That’s 25% chance of success; and a decision that has to be made and executed in a split-second, if at all.
In addition to causing confusion, we found that not only are physical buttons prone to wear and tear, but also mechanical malfunctions. There is no way to ensure that they are kept in working condition across all the cars in the city.
The outcome of this is that not only the passengers get a digital panic button but also get an easier way to share their routes and real-time locations with up to 5 family and friends, just in case.