Uber started as a fun new way to get to where you needed to go instead of using a taxi. But in recent years, Uber's name has been associated with horror.
Drivers have assaulted female passengers. Passengers have robbed Uber drivers. The horror came to a head in May when a woman stepped into a car she thought was the Uber she had hailed. It wasn't and the woman was murdered.
Now, the company has introduced a new app that's supposed to keep people safe. We have information on that, plus other features the new app offers.
Never get into the wrong car
In May, a South Carolina college student entered a car she believed was the Uber she ordered. The car was not and the driver murdered the young woman.
To make sure passengers get into the right car, they have to verify the make and model of the vehicle and the license plate number. Now, Uber has created a more simple and safer way to avoid tragedies such as the one in South Carolina.
With Uber's new app, which was introduced last week, riders can use a feature called Verify Your Ride. If the user has the setting on, drivers won’t be able to start their ride without inputting a four-digit PIN Uber sends the rider. When the PIN is confirmed, riders will receive confirmation that the driver is Uber verified.
The system will begin in some parts of the country in November and then expand. The feature will eventually become more sophisticated.
There is also a new “on-trip reporting” feature that will allow riders to report any safety incidents during the ride instead of after as they have to now. Uber is revamping its “Real-Time ID Check.” Since 2016, drivers have had to take selfies to verify their identity. Under the updated system, drivers will have to move their heads or smile to provide an extra layer of security.
In 2018, the company added a panic button to its app to dial 911 for passengers. That feature has been enhanced and in areas where the service is supported, a passenger can text 911 and Uber will automatically include in the text the vehicle's make, model, license plate number and location.
The changes come after a story from in The Washington Post revealed that Uber's investigation team worked to prevent having drivers or passengers report crimes or even file official police incident reports.
More changes are coming
The new app now handles Uber Rides and Uber Eats as a way of streamlining its system. Uber's CEO told The Verge that the company found that people who used Uber Rides and Eats tended to be its most loyal customers.
Uber will now also institute a rewards program for people who frequently use Uber Eats. Customers will get redeemable points every time they take an Uber ride or get Uber Eats.
In a surprise, Uber's app also plans to play nice with other forms of public transit. With the new app, people will be able to get bus, subway or light rail schedules as well as pricing. The feature is being tested in a few cities around the world.
Eventually Uber hopes to add ticketing capabilities to the app. It is currently testing the feature in Denver.
The Uber app will list which mode of transportation will be cheaper for a passenger, even if it's not Uber. The company's CEO said Uber's philosophy is to help people in need of any type of transportation rather than enter a costly competition.
Kim's Take: Crazy things passengers left behind in Uber cars
Uber’s out with its annual lost-and-found report that details commonly lost items. But it’s the strangest things that people leave in an Uber that grabbed my attention.