Uber Technologies Inc. on Thursday said it will launch an additional pilot audio recording program in three U.S. cities to improve safety by allowing drivers and passengers to send trip recordings to Uber in the event of a security breach.
At the end of 2019, Uber reported that it had received 6,000 reports of sexual harassment and 107 fatal road accidents associated with 2.3 billion U.S. trips in 2017 and 2018. The recording feature is designed to provide additional safety for drivers and passengers if they feel uncomfortable, and allows users to provide evidence of how the situation has developed, Uber said.
The audio recording feature launched in Latin America two years ago and is available in 14 countries in the region, but will launch for the first time in the United States.
Launching in Kansas City, Missouri, Louisville, Kentucky and Raleigh Durham, North Carolina later this month, drivers and passengers will be able to select audio recording for individual rides via the Uber app.
Drivers, Uber said, are alerted to drivers who could potentially record a ride using an in-app banner and can cancel the ride if they feel uncomfortable.
Sachin Kansal, Uber’s vice president of product management, said the company has applied lessons learned in Latin America to ensure privacy, transparency and usability.
The encrypted recordings are stored in the Uber app and users cannot play them, Kansal said. In the event of a security breach, users completing the security report can send the recording to qualified Uber personnel who can decrypt it, Kansal said.
“We expect people to like this feature,” Kansal said. “As we learn from these cities and receive feedback, we can expand it further.”
Uttara Sivaram, Uber’s senior manager of public policy, said the company will first focus the recording function on US jurisdictions with unilateral consent laws.
A spokeswoman said Wednesday that the company is awaiting full year road accident data from US regulators in order to complete its 2019 and 2020 safety report.