• 02.22.16

Why Uber Doesn’t Have A Panic Button

The company says that it doesn’t want to compete with 911.

Why Uber Doesn’t Have A Panic Button
[Photo: courtesy of Wikipedia]

In the wake of Saturday’s seven-hour shooting rampage in Kalamazoo, Michigan, by a registered Uber driver who reportedly picked up and dropped off passengers between shootings, some have questioned why the ride-sharing service doesn’t feature a panic button?


Such a feature exists in some parts of India, where it was added after a string of alleged sexual assaults by drivers. The button allows riders to call police via the app, send instant alerts with rider, driver, and trip information, and send an automated text message to emergency contacts that allows them to monitor the trip via GPS.

A New York City council member has also sponsored a bill that proposes a similar panic button system for taxis, and Uber at one point said that it would introduce a similar feature in Chicago.

The company now says it has no plans to offer a panic button anywhere in the United States.

“You don’t want to confuse people about who they should be notifying,” explained Ed Davis, a former Boston Police Commissioner who sits on Uber’s safety board, during a conference call with the media on Monday. “And you particularly don’t want to notify a corporation that is some distance away from the incident that is occurring.”

Uber’s Chief Security Officer, Joe Sullivan, added that the markets in India where Uber includes its “panic button” feature don’t have a system that is comparable to 911.

“In the United States, 911 is the panic button,” he said. “And it’s the button that we want people to use. It’s the button that law enforcement wants people to use. We don’t want to try to replace that.”


About the author

Sarah Kessler is a senior writer at Fast Company, where she writes about the on-demand/gig/sharing "economies" and the future of work.