Uber App 911 Update: Riders can Call 911 directly from the App

One of the biggest issues we tend to think is a daily occurrence the safety of an Uber rider. With so many stories of accidents, violence, sexual harassment, and other incidents, it no wonders that Uber made this update available in the new app: A 911 emergency call button.

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Uber has added a "safety center" feature that will be accessible from the main screen and will provide riders with quick access to "first responders" in case of an emergency. The safety center will also provide five new features that include:

  1. The drivers screening process
  2. Insurance coverage
  3. Community guidelines, to help the rider understand how to act in any situation
  4. Five friends (designated to share your location during every ride)
  5. 911 button for automatic dialing

Uber CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi stated that the new app was an ongoing process and that "We were not perfect. Anytime you're growing as fast as we were growing, but that's not an excuse, and sometimes you get things wrong. But our intent now is to get things right."

The new 911 button is not just to arrange a call; it is also going to send out the exact location details to the first responders. One of the biggest issues with a 911 call is that first responder cannot locate the rider so easily based on their description or location, even if they have GPS. Uber intends to add a script that will send the cars exact position as well as the trip details to the 911 computers, and that way the first responders will be able to make an exact fix on the rider's location and arrive within a reasonable response time.

Uber has added that it intends to pilot a communications integration plan that will integrate communications between the thousands of 911 centers. They are starting in Denver, CO with a $350,000 budget as Khosrowshahi added in an Uber blog posting "If a rider uses Uber's emergency button in one of our pilot cities, their location and trip details will be automatically sent to the 911 dispatcher."


Uber is upgrading its background checking process and will perform mandatory annual checkups to screen drivers routinely every year. This comes after many complaints about the screening process and the fact that many drivers were allowed to drive before completing a full screening. This comes as an increase in Uber requirements as Khosrowshahi stated about annual screening in the blog post "regardless of whether there is a legal obligation to do so.".

The new screening process includes a script that will link Uber to the driver driving offenses databases updating them on a regular basis. Any driving violation reported into the legal system will automatically be updated in Uber's driver profile file. This means that Uber will be able to monitor all drivers on a daily basis for offenses that would be deemed as critical for deactivation.

My take

With all the accumulated news of sexual harassment, how Uber in India tried to cover up a case by hiding a woman's medical records and with the death of the pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Uber is in sore need to improve its customer's perception of their driver. Drivers rely on Uber's name and brand image to get rides as much as Uber relies on its driver's abilities to provide a safe and comfortable ride. Khosrowshahi's upgrades to the app have to include upgrades to how Uber operates and how to maintain a clean service.

This is good news, the 911 button should be integrated with a link to the 911 computer system, and the GPS coordinates should be immediately shared with the 911 service when the button is pressed. Sometimes a driver cannot talk, maybe because he/she is under stress or running away, or being beaten to death, or being fondled at knife point. The GPS locator and the silence over the call should be construed as “driver/caller in danger” send help immediately.