Busy Bostonians have a new way to ensure their safety when travelling around the city via the ubiquitous Uber cars. The ride-hailing service’s new feature, dubbed, “SafetyNet,” was released last week and enables riders to share their estimated time of arrival (ETA) with the simple click of a button.
The update comes at a timely manner, as Uber drivers have recently been accused or convicted of sexual assaults in the area, the company has been sued for passenger negligence, and multiple bills in the Massachusetts legislature regarding ride-hailing regulation have been introduced, according to Boston.com.
Boston is one of three cities piloting the new feature in the United States. It will be implemented everywhere by the end of the month, Uber Boston Spokesperson Carlie Waibel said. According to the company, SafetyNet lets riders pre-select up to five contacts to receive information about their trip, including the name and vehicle of the driver and their location on a map that indicates where the driver is bringing the customer. The company explained that SafetyNet is designed to enhance safety, which it considers to be the main priority of the trip for both riders and drivers. “Uber believes that safe and reliable transportation should be reliable to everyone,” its website reads. The company said it is confident that SafetyNet will help Uber reach this goal.
Uber argues that transparency is one important way that the company’s technology improves safety in transportation, and SafetyNet is taking the anonymity out of the trip by keeping driver-partners, riders, and the rider’s loved ones informed about whom the rider is with at all times, according to Uber. Waibel added that the feature makes drivers more accountable, since friends and family outside the car are informed of their loved one’s whereabouts.
Waibel explained how the process of sharing an ETA was previously much more difficult on the Uber app, and that SafetyNet makes the process very easy.
“It’s a neat feature that makes the ‘Share My ETA’ feature a one-step process, so riders can quickly and easily share their ETA with contacts that the choose from their phone,” she said. “You just create the list and then share it with whomever you want.”
Waibel said that Uber is always looking to improve its overall experience and that, as far as she can tell, Uber users have praised SafetyNet so far. Uber is incredibly popular in the Boston area and used by many young people, including Boston College students, very frequently.
Haydn White, MCAS ’18, first heard about SafetyNet when she received a text message from Uber, indicating her roommate’s ETA, which enabled her to see where she was and when she would arrive back at BC. White agrees that this is a great addition to the app, and although she has always felt safe in an Uber and has never had a problem with the company, she would most likely use the feature.
“I wasn’t very aware about what this was until I got a text from Uber sharing my roommates ETA,” she said. “I think it is a good idea for Uber, and I think it will provide more safety within the company.”
Although White has never felt that her safety has been compromised while travelling with Uber, she always makes sure to double-check with the driver to ensure that she is getting in the right car. Additionally, her parents require that she keep them informed about her driver, and make sure that she notifies them when she arrives at her destination.
“One of the things my parents make me do is have me send them a screenshot of the Uber ETA and Map page so they know who the driver is and what the car looks like,” she said. “Sometimes they make me take a picture of the driver as well.”
White thinks that she will start using the SafetyNet feature, especially because it will help put her parents at ease, and give her friends up-to-date information on when she is going to arrive at her destination.
Featured Image by Eric Risberg / AP Photo