Uber brings audio recordings, more security features to the US

James Martin / CNET

Uber on Thursday unveiled three new security features it is rolling out for the ridesharing app. The company will now check in when trips take unexpected routes or stop unexpectedly, remind passengers to buckle up, and allow drivers and passengers to record audio of their trips.

Uber has licensed audio recording in 14 Latin American countries and is piloting the feature in three US cities: Louisville, Kentucky; Kansas City, Missouri; and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. After the pilot period and soliciting user feedback, the audio recording feature could be rolled out to more cities in the United States, Uber said. Uber has not shared a schedule for a possible extension.

Audio recordings of trips can be submitted to Uber to support safety reports, which drivers and passengers can submit. The feature is optional and drivers will be alerted when drivers may check them in, the company said in a blog post. Any audio recording will be stored encrypted on the user’s device and Uber will not automatically receive any recording.

“It’s up to the user to choose when to record the audio and when to share it with Uber,” the company’s blog post said.

Uber claims the feature has been “a popular way to promote safe and comfortable interactions while traveling” where it was introduced and notes that 70% of those surveyed in Rio de Janeiro said they felt more secure thanks to the this feature.

The company has also expanded its RideCheck service, which was introduced in 2019 to detect accidents or unexpected stops, to include unexpected deviations from a trip’s route. When RideCheck notices an unusual stop or route, it will send a push notification to the passenger and driver. Users can then ignore the notification, contact emergency services or change their route.

Drivers will also receive audible seat belt alerts from the driver’s phone at the start of a trip. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for Americans age 54 and under.

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