Uber has announced a set of new features it says will give passengers a safer experience.
The ride-hailing app has come under scrutiny in the past for its handling of serious incidents involving its drivers, and in response it says it is “changing our approach to reporting serious incidents to the police”.
A new policy that has gone live in London with the Metropolitan Police means Uber will now pass any information it receives about serious incidents directly to the authorities. The policy applies to both riders and drivers – who have historically had to report crimes to the police themselves. Uber says it will roll the policy out across the UK as it reaches agreements with police forces.
Uber will also introduce a dedicated 24/7 support line available for both passengers and drivers. Uber says it will be training and recruiting additional staff before launching the feature later in the year, with agents set to provide assistance on lost property, incorrect cancellation fees and other issues.
Upon booking, users currently receive their driver’s name, photo, rating and the registration and model of the car. But Uber says it will now provide passengers with the driver’s private hire licence number and licensing authority details, which are provided by local authorities.
The company ran into trouble with the courts last year when an employment tribunal ruled that its drivers could be classed as employees and were therefore entitled to holiday and sick pay benefits. Critics have also questioned the app’s safety practices, with no clear limit on how long drivers could be ‘on call’ with the app.
Now, Uber will place restrictions on the number of hours drivers can be on the road without time offline. It says that after ten hours ‘on trip’, the app will prompt drivers to take at least six hours away from the system to rest.
Uber is currently appealing against Transport for London’s (TfL) decision not to grant it a private hire licence. TfL claimed the service was not “fit and proper”, pointing to a number of incidents involving Uber drivers and passengers. It also appealing a similar decision in York.
CEO Dara Khosrowshahi later met with TfL in London to discuss how the app could improve its services and win back its licence. The new safety measures would appear to be an attempt to smooth over Uber’s relationship with city licensing authorities.