Uber introduces driver safety toolkit | Sunday Observer

Uber introduces driver safety toolkit

21 April, 2019
Country Lead, Uber Sri Lanka, Ankit Gupta
Country Lead, Uber Sri Lanka, Ankit Gupta

* Increase in attacks on drivers of ride-hailing services

* Tuk-tuk mafias block access to some areas

Uber, the world’s largest on-demand ride-sharing company, launched its ‘Driver Safety Toolkit’ - a comprehensive set of in-app safety features for driver partners, in Sri Lanka last week, to offer a safe experience for everyone and to create an environment of mutual respect.

Uber has also updated its community guidelines, reminding riders of the behaviour expected of anyone using the platform to further strengthen safety.

Uber has introduced security measures to ensure the safety of its driver partners in Sri Lanka, amid an increase in reports of attacks on the driver partners of the taxi-hailing services in the country.

Uber, by introducing its global Safety Toolkit for its driver partners in Sri Lanka which includes an emergency button for driver partners to have direct access to 119, the police control room and the option to set up five trusted contacts to share the trip details, have made their service much safer.

The Driver Safety Toolkit has three main focus areas such as share trip which enables the driver partners to share their trip details with their loved ones straight from the app, letting their family and friends follow them along as they drive. The second is the emergency button.

The emergency assistance button offers driver partners an option to connect with law enforcement agencies during an emergency. The final feature is the speed limit. This feature allows driver partners to be alerted when they exceed the speed limit so that they can keep themselves, riders and all others safe on the road.

Over the past couple of months, there has been an increase in reports of drivers of ride-hailing services being attacked or threatened by regular tuk-tuk drivers, in particular in tourism areas.

The tuk-tuk mafias have also blocked access for ride-hailing services to operate in some areas.

“There is no Uber without driver partners - they are at the centre of Uber’s business. The national roll-out of an emergency button and the ‘share trip feature’ under the Driver Safety toolkit reiterates Uber’s commitment to ensure all driver partners stay connected and safe. Technology enables us to make transportation safer. We are encouraged by the number of women choosing Uber to earn a livelihood,” Country Lead, Uber Sri Lanka, Ankit Gupta said.

“We have also updated Uber’s community guidelines which extend the same behavioural standards to the riders that Uber has for the driver partners. Even though a vast majority of riders will not be affected by this update, it reminds a select few what behaviour is expected of them while using the app,” he said.

Some of these incidents prompted us to prioritise this feature launch sooner, so that we are able to help the driver partners in case of any such incidents. However, these incidents rare happen rarely.

We have been working with local law enforcement and other parties to resolve these issues. The access to 119 national emergency helpline with one tap would be helpful for its driver partners to face such unexpected incidents. The national emergency helpline is in a much better position and provides the support in emergencies for medical and law enforcement assistance, he said.

“We believe that it’s the law enforcement or national emergency helpline that caters to such a situation much faster and in a timely manner. We believe that this functionality will go a long way in helping us resolve these issues while providing the safety factor and comfort to the driver partners, enabling them to take on Uber trips anywhere in Sri Lanka,” he said.

The ability to ‘share your trip’ with five trusted contacts would address the safety concerns of the family members and loved ones of the driver partners, with regard to female driver partners in particular.

“This helps their family and loved ones feel lot better with a large comfort level. Some women driver partners appreciate this feature as their families keep a track of where they are driving,” he said.

Uber already has a safety response team, which is available 24 hours a day, all seven days of the week, to support the riders and driver partners.

Uber has also introduced a speed limit indicator to ensure the driver partners do not exceed the speed limits.

While reiterating its commitment to enhance the experience of driver partners to the level of passengers, Gupta said that Uber Sri Lanka is extending its community guidelines for passengers to provide a better experience for its driver base while they are on the Uber platform.

“We believe that respect is a two-way street. There should be a degree of mutual respect that both parties show to each other. Community guidelines have existed for driver partners for some time; it basically outlines what to do while on the app or during a trip,” he said.

Uber Sri Lanka is also preparing to blacklist passengers who have received the lowest rating by driver partners due to their behaviour.

“Over the course of the next few weeks, we will send notifications to these passengers informing them about their low ratings and that we expect them to improve their ratings by changing the behaviour towards driver partners within a given period. If they are unable to increase their ratings consistently over a period of time, we will deny access to the Uber app for these passengers,” he added.

Colombo was ranked the 11th most important city in South Asia for Uber, where it has over 25,000 driver partners joining the Uber platform in three-years up to December last year.

Uber Sri Lanka has experienced an exponential growth in UberTuk since its launch in mid-2018 and Uber has identified Sri Lanka becoming the tuk capital of the Uber universe.

Recently, Uber Sri Lanka launched its two-wheeled product, UberMoto in Colombo 1-7.

“We intend to introduce multiple products bringing in new features. We expect that business will continue to grow and to introduce more products to ensure our commitment for driver safety. We are always exploring ways of expanding our services outside Colombo. However, our core focus is Colombo at present and with strong consolidation to serve the entire Colombo area, we will embark on offering the same level of service to selected cities in the near future,” he said.