Uber has appointed a head of security for Africa after three people were attacked in two separate incidents in July and August in Johannesburg, allegedly while taking rides using the popular app.
Deon Du Toit, who joins Uber from De Beers, where he worked as head of global interventions and investigations, will focus on improving security for Uber across Africa.
At De Beers, Du Toit was responsible for combating global illegal diamond trade and managing the protection of partners and staff.
“He joins Uber as a valuable asset, with over 22 years’ experience in the safety and security industry,” the company said.
Du Toit previously held a management position at Standard Bank, where he was head of global security.
“Our goal is to provide reliable, affordable and safe transportation and this can only happen when both riders and drivers feel safe,” said Uber Middle East and Africa head of trust and security David Myers in a statement. “We are excited to have Deon join the team and we believe his wealth of experience will bring a tighter focus on security.”
Uber said it is also making improvements to its app to help increase both driver and rider safety.
“In addition to the driver image, vehicle type and licence plate, riders across South Africa will see the colour of the vehicle when they request a ride,” the company said.
“This is a phased roll-out and not everyone will see this right away as Uber are testing different groups and user preferences,” it said.
The vehicle colour will feature next to the vehicle’s licence plate, for example: GG 257 YT GP (Red). “This is the first step in introducing this feature across sub-Saharan Africa and will go a long way to helping ensure riders get in the correct vehicle with the correct driver-partner.”
The company is also launching the trial of an in-vehicle SOS button in Johannesburg. During the pilot, SOS buttons will be installed in selected vehicles and linked to Uber’s central security system.
“The security team will monitor the devices 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Uber said. “This update will allow driver-partners to connect to a broad base of emergency services and receive advice in a critical situation. Should the pilot prove useful, this feature could be introduced to the other cities across South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.”
It said it now also sends weekly reports to drivers about how their driving patterns compare to other drivers in their city, along with suggestions on how to provide a smoother and safer ride.
Drivers get messages in the driver app informing them that mounting their phone on the dashboard is safer than having it on their laps or in their hands. A speed display in the app that alerts drivers to the speed of their vehicle. And reminders are sent to drivers of the importance of taking a break when they need it. — © 2016 NewsCentral Media