Uber-watchers: Private security guards at the ready outside the Uber offices in Parktown, Johannesburg. There have been a spate of incidents in which drivers have been intimidated, injured and killed. Picture: REUTERS
Uber-watchers: Private security guards at the ready outside the Uber offices in Parktown, Johannesburg. There have been a spate of incidents in which drivers have been intimidated, injured and killed. Picture: REUTERS

Uber has launched new safety features in the wake of a recent spate of attacks on driver-partners and passengers.

Introduced after engagement with drivers, the features include Social Connect and Share My Trip.

Uber said Social Connect would require new Uber cash customers to link their Facebook profile to their Uber account. The company would then verify the Facebook account using factors such as number of friends and linked phone numbers to ensure fake profiles were not being used.

Social Connect will initially be limited to new sign-ups, with the potential to expand to Uber’s existing cash user base.

Uber said that it would also look at enhancing its Facebook verification process as technology evolved and that no Facebook user data was shared.

The Social Connect function will be rolled out across SA and Share My Trip will be piloted in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

Share My Trip would allow drivers to share trip information with loved ones. To protect rider privacy, Uber said Share My Trip would not reveal the pick-up or drop-off location of passengers.

"Drivers who feel insecure in a certain area or at a time of day are now encouraged to make use of this additional feature," said Uber.

These new functions come on the back of a spate of incidents where drivers were intimidated and injured‚ with Uber driver Kgomotso Tiro attacked with acid earlier this month. Last week another Uber driver was shot and killed.

Uber said the features come after the launch of Uber’s Cash Indicator‚ which allows drivers to choose whether they want to accept a cash trip request or not. This allowed the rating of drivers to remain unaffected despite not accepting a cash trip.

"While driver-partners have shown their concern regarding the safety of cash trips‚ many still do not want to remove the cash option altogether," said Alon Lits‚ GM of Uber sub-Saharan Africa.

"We look forward to applying this additional layer of safety to verify rider identity and further strengthen the rider authentication process‚" he said.

"We are confident these new features will add additional layers of safety for our driver-
partners‚" said Lits.

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