The transportation company uses data collected from its app to provide emergency dispatchers with real-time rider updates.
Uber passengers in Phoenix now have the ability to text first responders directly through the company’s app, providing an additional layer of security to riders in distress.
The rideshare company first announced plans to add a 911 texting option into its app last September, after a report by the Washington Post found that Uber’s internal incident investigations prioritized company liability over customer protections. However, Uber representatives disputed the report’s findings, which they described in a statement as “just wrong.”
In an interview with AZ Family, Uber spokesman and head of safety communications Andrew Hasburn also rejected the notion that the additional security features were a response to public criticism. Instead, Hasburn said the feature is a response to customer feedback surrounding concerns over personal safety.
“Some of the consistent feedback we got from people has been, what do you do in a situation where you may not be able to make a phone call or a phone call will make the situation worse?” said Hasburn. “We’re always going to be looking at ways to raise the bar on safety and new innovative ways and things we can do to give people peace of mind when they’re on a trip.”
Beginning Tuesday, the option to text first responders will be available to Uber passengers and drivers in Phoenix, as well as dozens of other cities nationwide. The ability to text for help has been integrated into the app’s emergency button, where riders may also choose to call 911 in the event of an emergency.
The app provides emergency dispatchers with the make, model, and license plate number of the vehicle registered to the Uber driver. Dispatchers will also receive the GPS location and requested destination of the rider.
The ability to text first responders was first made available in Maricopa County in 2018. But unlike Uber, the county’s texting system is unable to transmit GPS location data to dispatchers.
Public officials still recommend calling 911 as the most reliable method to getting help in an emergency situation.