Uber has reached an agreement with several security response services to improve safety and security for driver-partners in South Africa.
“The new partnerships will see security and medical services dispatched in emergency situations in a reduced time, in an effort to improve the safety for driver-partners who use the Uber app,” the company said.
The new partnership, involves an improvement to Uber’s current security number that is already available to all drivers in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
The security number links to a central control room, where now a “geo-specific” security or medical response partner can be dispatched within minutes, it said.
These improvements follow the pilot of SOS buttons in Johannesburg between September and December 2016, where 500 driver-partner vehicles were fitted with buttons that when triggered alerted Uber’s central control room.
“We learnt a great deal from the pilot last year, most importantly that the response time needed to be reduced”, said David Myers, head of trust and safety, at Uber Middle East and Africa.
“We are rather focusing on our security number operated by a central control room, and making use of multiple private security companies that are location specific to try to reduce the response time and get help to partners quicker than before.”
The substantial difference is that Uber’s previous emergency number put drivers in touch with one dedicated security company that was less localised and did not include medical response, the company explained.
Uber has now partnered with multiple private security companies because they are “suburb specific”. Security officers or patrols don’t need to travel from a different suburb to attend to an emergency; they’re covering a smaller area and response times are therefore far quicker, it said.
In addition, calls to the control room will be recorded for possible use by authorities in investigations.
Uber drivers have in the past been the target of metered taxi drivers, unhappy about the ride-hailing service muscling into their industry. Sporadic incidents of violence have been reported in both Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The improved security number and partnership agreement is being introduced first in Johannesburg and will reach Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth in the coming weeks, Uber said. — © 2017 NewsCentral Media