Will Uber’s New Safety Initiatives in Philly Be Effective?

October 15, 2018

Need a ride to or from the Philly airport? Looking for a quick way to get into the city without taking the train, bus, or your personal vehicle? You’ve probably considered a rideshare app like Uber. But like many people, you may be concerned about the safety ramifications.

As it turns out, Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, seems to be just as worried. In fact, in an NBC Philadelphia news 10 article from September 2018, he said he is committed to closing security gaps. As the piece points out, Khosrowshahi is preparing to make several changes in the company.

Perhaps the most important ones for Philly’s residents, students, and visitors include new hands-free capabilities for drivers, notification of unusually long mid-trip stops, and annual criminal background checks for operators.

Driving without texting or manipulating cell phones

A huge concern among Uber passengers has always been the penchant of drivers for using their cellphones in the middle of a routine trip. As statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show, texting while driving and other types of distracted driving accounted for more than 3,400 fatalities in 2016 and 391,000 injuries in 2015. By providing a hands-free component for drivers, Uber expects to cut down on distractions. However, drivers will be expected to use the honor system and are not required at this point to conduct business hands-free.

Noticing abnormal mid-trip stops

Uber has information on drivers’ current trips, and the company plans to use their wealth of data innovatively to indicate unusual activities. For instance, if a driver stops along a roadway that doesn’t seem to be congested because of other traffic, or isn’t particularly close to the ultimate destination, Uber can then contact both the driver and passenger for more information. Though not an airtight system, it does provide a potential barrier against a driver’s acting nefariously. Plus, the system could possibly help drivers whose vehicles break down along the road.

Checking up on drivers’ pasts

Although Uber conducts fairly thorough criminal background checks now, it hasn’t historically monitored drivers for the long term. Thus, if they committed crimes after becoming part of Uber, they could potentially remain as drivers. With yearly checks, Uber expects to be able to better weed out drivers who commit crimes. Though this is a good start, the company is preparing to more quickly ensure notification via technology “flags” to jettison drivers who get in legal trouble.

Can Uber make Philadelphians feel safer?

Of course, the big question is whether these interventions by Uber will make noticeable changes for Philadelphians and people traveling in and around the state of Pennsylvania. After all, the corporation is absolutely ripe to be disrupted if it doesn’t get ahead of problems prior to its IPO in 2019.

In the meantime, passengers should always exercise caution when using Uber or similar services, such as letting friends know the driver’s name, vehicle make, and license plate number before the trip begins.

Have you been hurt in a traffic accident that involved texting and driving or another form of distracted driving? Contact Wapner Newman’s offices for a free consultation to discuss your situation. You may be entitled to compensation, depending upon the circumstances.