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Lifestyle

Safety update: You can now call or text 911 right from this app

Uber may be a convenient way to get around, but a chief concern for many potential riders is safety. Once you step into your driver’s car, you’re at their mercy until the vehicle comes to a stop. This means you have little-to-no recourse during a crisis or emergency, and no way to get out of the car.

Malicious rideshare drivers are fully aware of this issue as well. In fact, a 2019 report from Uber found that almost 6,000 sexual assault cases occurred with Uber drivers and passengers over the past two years. Tap or click here to see more details from the company’s safety report.

Safety is clearly a serious issue for Uber these days, but thankfully, the company is taking steps to make ridesharing much safer for both passengers and drivers. A new feature rolling out to the mobile app gives anyone instant access to emergency services at the push of a button. Here’s how it works.

Uber rolls out instant, silent 911 calls for users

Uber is finally updating its mobile app with a new feature that puts easy 911 access in the hands of millions of users. With the push of a button, you’ll be able to dial or text 911 directly from Uber’s menu — and you can do it without making a sound.

This essential feature was announced by Uber in 2018, but not every market had immediate access to it. Now, the company is slowly rolling the feature out globally so users around the world can feel safer when they ride. Tap or click here to see the initial announcement.

When users embark on a ride (and the app’s screen changes to a map), users will be able to scroll down and access a new menu called Safety Toolkit. Here, you’ll see an option called 911 Assistance that will either call or text the service on your behalf.

Calling 911 is useful on its own, but the texting feature may literally save lives. When you select the option to text 911, the app will automatically fill in the details about the car you’re in, as well as your current location and intended destination.

You can describe your emergency and press “send” without the driver ever hearing a word out of you.

But passengers aren’t the only ones who can benefit. Drivers, who have suffered numerous safety issues of their own, can use the autodialer for emergency situations as well.

It may be one small step forward for Uber, but the design and function of this update will no doubt give Uber passengers and drivers more control over their health and safety.

I use Uber. How can I get this update?

Uber tends to unroll new updates and features on a regional, rather than global, basis. This means that not every city will get the update right away, while some cities with higher amounts of traffic will have priority access.

Currently, Uber’s Text-to-911 option has been unrolled in cities where emergency services are able to receive texts.

This includes cities, counties and metro areas in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont and Washington State.

If you live in the following areas and don’t see the update on your device, open the iOS App Store or Google Play store and search for Uber. Tap Update to download the latest version of the software, then re-open it. The update should be available for you the next time you take a ride.

If your region wasn’t listed above, it may be a bit more time before the update reaches your area. Uber does seem to be moving rather fast, so it’s reasonable to expect the rollout to be completed over the course of the year.

Speaking of safety, what about Uber and the coronavirus?

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Uber has opened a coronavirus resource page with more information about the company’s efforts to handle sick drivers and passengers. This goes in hand with other health efforts the company previously attempted. Tap or click to see how Uber and Lyft can give you a ride to the doctor.

The company has a team dedicated to working with local health officials on a 24/7 basis. As part of its new policy, it’s communicating with these organizations and temporarily suspending the accounts of drivers and passengers who have contracted or been exposed to COVID-19.

In addition, Uber will also be offering paid sick leave of up to 14 days for drivers who miss work or have their accounts suspended due to coronavirus.

The effort looks like a solid start for an industry leader that stands to lose a good deal of money over the course of the pandemic. Ultimately, their workers are the backbone of the company, and without them, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the cheap, convenient rides we know and love.

One can only hope other companies pay attention to the news and move their platforms in the right direction. We can take precautions to keep ourselves safe, but the companies that run these apps do have a responsibility to make their products worth using.

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