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Dara Khosrowshahi rings in his first anniversary as Uber CEO with new safety features

Dara Khosrowshahi rings in his first anniversary as Uber CEO with new safety features
[Animation: courtesy of Uber]

Uber keeps hammering home the same point these days: Our platform is safe.

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That is the message that CEO Dara Khosrowshahi hand-delivered to a room full of journalists this morning at an event in New York, where the ride-hailing company introduced a series of new safety features. Among the new features are an emergency button for drivers in case of an accident and a hands-free way to interact with the app while driving. Also, drivers in 39 states will now have the ability to start an insurance claim within the app.

Uber also announced something called Ride Check. If a car is stopped for a prolonged period of time during a ride, the app will flag the ride to an Uber support person, who will in turn call the rider or driver to ensure everything is okay.

There are also some new safety features for riders. Now, pickup and drop-off addresses will be anonymized, and drivers will only get location areas. Riders can also add two-factor authentication to their app, to prevent account theft. Earlier this year, Uber launched the ability for riders to share their location.

A softer Uber?

Today’s announcements are the latest component of Uber’s a yearlong campaign to win over drivers and assure the masses that its platform is indeed safe. In 2017, amid complaints about its internal company culture, Uber was plagued by revelations that its executives mishandled records related to a rape on its platform. Subsequently, the company came under scrutiny for the ways in which it handled driver background checks and sexual harassment and violence.

The problems emboldened the company’s competitors. In the wake of Uber’s issues, Lyft accrued 30% of the U.S. ride-hailing market, according to Second Measure. Where Uber has historically represented itself as a luxury black car service, Lyft has long branded itself as the friendly alternative. Uber’s safety campaign is clearly meant to soften its image.

Khosrowshahi was hired a year ago to turn around the company’s operations and image. Since coming on board, he has revamped the driver app, added a 911-hotline quick button for riders, and promised to screen drivers annually. The company also ended forced arbitration for sexual assault victims.

“One thing I did as a rookie CEO was to remake our culture,” he said on stage. He says that he went to the employees at Uber, asked them how they wanted to work going forward, and that “One of the most significant norms was, ‘do the right thing.'”

“We have to, as a company, stand for safety,” he added.

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