Uber adds drivers and riders record audio during trips for safety

Uber is releasing its audio-recording feature to three US cities later this month, Uber said in its press release.

At the beginning of a trip, and drivers can enable this feature by clicking the shield icon in the app's Safety Toolkit and selecting “ Audio.” While both riders and drivers can record individual trips, drivers have the option to leave the feature on while they're actively seeking rides. The app will notify the rider if the driver is using the feature. Uber first launched audio recording in Latin America in 2019.

The move is the first in-app feature that provides audio documentation of rides. Uber allows drivers to use their own dashcams to record rides on their own if local laws permit it.

As for audio file privacy, the file is encrypted and stored on rider and driver's devices, but no one can listen to the audio, even Uber. If either the rider or driver decides to submit a safety report, they can attach the audio file, and a trained Uber safety agent will decrypt and review the recording.

Along with audio recording, Uber is releasing audible seat belt alerts soon, according to the press release. The seat belt alert will come from the driver's phone, and the rider will receive a push notification reminding them to put on their seat belt. Uber said that this feature will be available in the US in early 2022.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — or NHTSA — reported that in 2020, the national seat belt use rate was 90.3 percent. NHTSA also reported that of the 22,415 passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2019, 47 percent were not wearing seat belts. NHTSA said they found no significant changes in seat belt use from 2019 to 2020.

Uber also announced enhancements for its RideCheck feature, first launched in 2019 to detect accidents and unusual long stops. Now, RideCheck can now detect when Uber drivers take an unexpected route or when a trip ends abruptly before the final destination. If detected, riders and drivers will receive a notification to make sure everything is safe.

Uber first published a safety report in 2019 looking at data between 2017 and 2018 following increased complaints from occupants regarding its safety practices. Ultimately, these observations included the safety of drivers who have also complained to the company about rider behavior.

Uber has been steadily releasing new safety features in response to both riders and drivers experiencing unsafe conditions during their trips, including allegations of sexual assault. In March, Uber, along with its competitor Lyft, announced that it would share information about drivers who were deactivated for committing serious offenses.

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