Uber adds a 911 button to its app for Americans

Uber is getting more secure for users in the US with a new initiative to bring in support for an in-app distress button. should users feel threatened or endangered either by the driver, passenger or external factors beyond either’s control.

Uber now has a 911 assistance button right int he app which lets you communicate your location. The firm is also working on automatically sharing your location with 911 dispatchers in a partnership with Rapid SOs. This particular feature is being tested on 7 us cities; Denver, Colo., Charleston, S.C., Nashville, Chattanooga and Tri-Cities, Tenn., Naples, Fla. and Louisville, Ky.

Uber’s Director of Product Management Sachin Kansa did the media rounds today, explaining the firm’s reasoning.

“Most of the scenarios that we see happening in an Uber are generally related to road accidents,” Kansal said to TechCrunch, indicating that while the firm was aware of dangers posed by drivers to riders, it did not foresee that as the most overwhelming use of the new 911 service. Of course, should a user be calling 911 about a belligerent driver, said the driver would also be within earshot.

“At the end of the day, when a user is in an emergency, we want them to use whatever will be the fastest mechanism for them in that moment in time,” Kansal opined. “If they’re already in a phone dialer, call 911 from there.”

In an interview with the Verge, Kansal also made it clear that one of the priorities at the forefront (despite earlier indications) here was gently encouraging good behavior on both sides. Should the drivers and the passengers become aware that either one has a one button hotlink to 911, both parties would be less likely to act out.

“We realize that a lot of situations and a lot of criminal activity arises when people think they’re not being watched,” Kansal said  “And we just want to say that we’re turning the lights on. Part of turning the lights on is providing these features to both sides and also make sure we’re making the entire community aware of the presence of these features.”

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