Uber has confirmed that it is working on a safety feature that will record audio in all rides. The feature will be piloted in some Brazilian and Mexican cities next month. The company wants to test it before bringing it to the US and other countries.
Uber has been under fire for a number of safety lapses in the past few years. There have been numerous reported cases of harassment and physical assaults to which the riders have claimed that the company was very slow to respond. To tackle the situation, Uber has been introducing safety features like buttons that allow passengers to call 911 directly from the app and a portal to report safety issues.
The new audio-recording feature will allow drivers to automatically record all rides. Riders will also be able to activate the feature via the app’s safety toolkit before entering the car. However, it is unclear whether the users will have to activate the feature every time they get into the car or will it be a one-time thing.
Once the feature is activated, riders and drivers alike will not get a notification when the recording starts. Users will however be given a warning that the trips are subjected to audio recording once the feature rolls out.
Interestingly, riders and drivers will not be able to listen to the recording.
In an email to the Washington Post, Uber said:
When the trip ends, the user will be asked if everything is okay and be able to report a safety incident and submit the audio recording to Uber with a few taps. The encrypted audio file is sent to Uber’s customer support agents who will use it to better understand an incident and take the appropriate action.
The audio is not discarded even if the rider does not report anything and can be made available to the authorities if required. The company plans to test the feature in the US soon. However, in the email, the company explained, “Laws in the United States around consent to being recorded can vary from state to state, but we hope to be able to make this available nationally”.
This feature is Uber’s way to reduce violence, unwanted advances and inappropriate behavior in its rides. Let’s see how things change once the feature rolls out.