Uber describes itself as a ride sharing service, but it's something much closer to a better organized and more modern taxi service. It provides a fairly quick and hassle-free way to travel without most of the stresses that come with traditional taxis. However, the service has its own disadvantages as well, as some of you might remember that a woman in New Delhi, India accused her Uber driver of sexual harassment a couple of months ago. Uber has now announced that it is launching an in-app 'panic button' to tackle similar unfortunate events that may occur in the future; triggering the button will alert the local police in case of an emergency.
Some people might still question Uber's inability to incorporate physical buttons into the taxi itself instead of using a digital button inside its app, Uber answers:
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.
It's been a difficult time for Uber lately as there have been various reported and alleged cases of Uber drivers sexually assaulting, abusing and harassing their passengers. Because of this, its services were suspended for several weeks after the accusations and Richard Stallman believes that you shouldn't use the service in the first place; South Korea wants to imprison the agency's CEO.
It's still difficult to say how effective Uber's efforts to prevent such events will be, nevertheless, the company intends to launch this panic button on February 11th in India only at first, due to the country's demand for stringent security measures. The service already allows Indian customers to share the details of the hired taxi, its driver and its route with up to five family members and friends.