Uber Launches 'Safety Tool Box' Following Spate Of Alleged Incidents

Uber has introduced an emergency assistance button as part of a suite of new safety features for Australian and New Zealand customers.

In the coming weeks the ride-share giant will be rolling out its new safety toolkit features which include an emergency assistance button as well as a trusted contacts function.

Australian users, including both riders and drivers, will be able to call 000 directly from the app which will be accessible via a new shield icon on the bottom right-hand corner of the map screen during a trip.

From there the feature will harness the app's GPS capabilities and show the user's current location including an address for users to be able to tell emergency operators where they are.

The feature follows a similar model that was rolled out earlier this year in the U.S. which is also available in Canada, India and countries in Latin America.

Uber Australia and New Zealand general manager Susan Anderson said they had received positive feedback on the new safety features from other regions and said the company was working to improve user safety.

"We can do more and we have to do more," Anderson told ten daily via an email statement.

"It's on us to constantly improve and raise the bar, and that's what we'll continue to do moving forward."

Trusted contacts

The safety toolbox will also feature a 'trusted contacts' option which allows users to designate up to five friends and/or family members and share trip details with them.

"This makes it easier than ever to share you trip, so loved ones can follow along and know when you've arrived," Anderson said.

Spokesperson for Victorian Centres Against Sexual Assault Forum,  Carolyn Worth said while anyone is able to call triple zero directly from their phone anyway, the trusted contacts function could be really useful for people particularly on a night out.

"Sometimes you can find yourself in a difficult situation and you should know which friends are around to call," Worth told ten daily.

Ride-share safety concerns

The introduction of these new safety features comes following a spate of domestic and international assault allegations involving ride-share companies including Uber.

READ MORE: Former Uber Driver Accused Of Indecent Assault Fronts Court

Worth said their centres had received multiple complaints from people reporting alleged sexual assault by Uber drivers, some as recently as two weeks ago.

"That's not saying they are coming in every night, but we also know most people don't report sexual assaults," Worth told ten daily.

On Tuesday, Uber refused to say whether the new features had been introduced in response to recent allegations against its Australian drivers, but said it was deeply committed to improving safety for all users.

"These reports were deeply upsetting and something no person should go through," Anderson told ten daily.

"There’s nothing more important than the safety of the people we serve and we’re deeply committed to continue investing in technology to improve the safety of everyone on the app."

Worth said she would encourage thorough background police checks for all Uber drivers, as an important safety feature for ride-share services.

Uber does run background checks for all drivers and told ten daily all prospective driver-partners undergo a third-party screening process in accordance with local law.

"This screening process includes a review of criminal records in accordance with each state or territory’s regulatory framework," Anderson said.

"We have a responsibility to help keep people safe. There is nothing more important than the safety of the people we serve and it’s on us to constantly improve."

The new features are expected to be fully rolled out to all Australian and New Zealand users within the next coming weeks.