Uber SA has introduced a new payment system — a cash indicator feature — that allows operators to choose if they want to collect clients on "cash trip" request or not.

This development is mainly in response to recent crimes against Uber drivers. Many have complained about the cash-trip method because they believe it exposes them to robberies and hijacking. However, the new cash indicator has been activated as a pilot.

It is expected to go live for all Uber operators by the end of this week.

"Unfortunately, Uber’s technology cannot prevent crime but we are doing everything we can to prioritise the safety of those using the Uber app‚" said Uber SA’s GM Jonathan Ayache in a statement issued on Thursday.

According to Uber‚ some drivers want the cash option to be completely removed, but there are also those in favour of this payment method because it increases their profits.

"Cash is the dominant payment method in Africa and many riders do not have cards to use on the app. Cash removes the barrier for those without a card who want to use Uber. That is why it’s not feasible to remove the cash option completely," Ayache said in a statement. "We believe riders should have the freedom to pay for rides how they wish, but also that driver-partners should have the freedom to accept cash trips or not."

Uber driver-partner Emmanuel Matwa supports the introduction of the cash indicator but urges Uber to improve rider identification features. He recommends that cash-trip riders be required to provide identification numbers and images when requesting Uber services. "Cash trips are very risky because riders can use fake SIM cards or provide incorrect details when requesting transport. Some drivers accept cash trips because they need the money‚ but these trips are dangerous, especially at night‚" he said.

Uber said driver-partners who declined cash trips would not be penalised and the new safety feature would not have any negative impact on the dispatch process. "We are in the business of technology. We have introduced many key safety features that did not exist before the introduction of Uber in SA. We remain committed to using and investing in technological solutions to any issues‚ safety included."

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