The initiative follows a string of incidents involving Uber drivers and poor customer experiences.
These new partnerships will see security and medical services dispatched in emergency situations in a reduced time, in an effort to improve the safety for driver-partners who use the Uber app.
The new partnership involves an improvement to Uber’s current security number that is already available to all drivers in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The security number links to a central control room, where now, a geo-specific security or medical response partner can be dispatched within minutes.
This follows the pilot of SOS buttons in Johannesburg from September to December 2016, where 500 driver-partner vehicles were fitted with buttons, that when triggered alerted Uber’s central control room.
“We learned a great deal from the pilot last year, most importantly that the response time needed to be reduced”, says David Myers, Uber head of Trust and Safety, Middle East and Africa. “We are rather focussing on our security number operated by a central control room, and making use of multiple private security companies who are location specific to try reduce the response time and get help to partners quicker than before.”
The substantial difference is that Uber’s previous emergency number put drivers in touch with one dedicated security company that was less localised and did not include medical response.
Uber has now partnered with multiple private security companies because they are geo-specific or suburb specific; this means help will get to driver-partners far quicker than before. Therefore security officers or patrols don’t need to travel from a different suburb to attend to an emergency; they’re covering a smaller area and response times are therefore far quicker.
“In essence, we are connecting drivers with the closest security company in their area. Unfortunately driver-partners have expressed safety concerns, and we are committed to making them feel as safe as possible when using our app. This improvement is a step in the right direction, as we look towards implementing a more technological solution in the future.”
In addition to the benefits of a quicker response rate, calls to the control room will be recorded for possible use by authorities in investigations.
The improved security number and partnership agreement will be launching in Johannesburg and will reach Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth in the coming weeks. By March 2017, all cities in which Uber South Africa operates will support the improved security number.