What is the latest suite of innovations sweeping through the ridesharing industry? It’s all about introducing cutting-edge ways to protect consumers, thrusting ridesharing safety further into the spotlight during this new COVID-19 age.
At their inception, rideshare companies focused on ease and efficiency, matching drivers to riders by allowing almost anyone with a car and an entrepreneurial mind to become a driver. Drivers clamored to offer this service, and ridership surged.
As they grew, companies suddenly found themselves under the microscope – this new business model became mainstream and drivers and passengers became harsher critics, demanding a safer, more efficient ride hailing experience.
Some pushed for restrictive regulations, others simply wanted built-in safety measures. Rideshare companies responded the way any cutting-edge tech company would, innovating a suite of safety features.
A few cities already had regulations on this new market while others mandated more extensive protections. New York City, for example, required ridesharing drivers to take additional steps to ensure their accountability, such as fingerprinting and limiting where drivers can pick up and drop off passengers. But, the primary responsibility of implementing new protective measures fell to the companies themselves.
The key has been access to the Internet of Things (IoT), which has enabled ridesharing platforms to respond to calls for tighter oversight while implementing their own protocols to adapt to individual markets. Initially, the companies used IoT to focus on reassuring both drivers and passengers that the right person was getting into or driving their vehicles, that they were taking the correct routes, and that any potential problems could be addressed. Location sensors of both driver and passenger phones regularly communicated with the cloud-based rideshare companies to optimize the drivers schedule and routes as ridership continued to grow. Beyond the initial IoT breakthrough, here’s what else has been introduced in ridesharing safety.
As more and more individuals use rideshare services, safety has shot to the top of the list of passenger concerns.
After scattered news reports in 2018 of sexual incidents during rides, Uber restructured their driver hiring and approval practices, focusing on both passengers and drivers. Since introducing new technology that regularly screens drivers’ records and criminal offenses, Uber has deactivated over 40,000 drivers.
Lyft faced similar criticism in 2019 and enhanced their driver screening to identify criminal offenses with continuous background checks and other safety precautions. The company even explored getting rid of drivers altogether, offering autonomous solutions to passengers in a limited partnership with Waymo.
Other companies are taking slightly different approaches to safety. Gett, an Israeli-based rideshare platform, requires UK drivers to meet with a Gett employee for a training program to ensure proper safety standards are followed. Via, a New York City-headquartered rideshare service, has a strict zero-tolerance policy, vowing it does not support any inappropriate behavior.
While incident rates remain low considering the volume of rides taken and the millions of people utilizing this service, there are inevitable safety challenges. One of the simplest ways rideshare companies support safe and successful trips is to empower drivers and riders with relevant information.
Apps like Uber, Lyft, Via, and Gett now include the license plate number along with the make and model of the vehicle for added security. Prompts encourage users to cross-check the license plate number to verify the ride is from the correct vehicle.
Other information is typically available as well, such as the driver’s name, destination, and even photos.Users, however, are encouraged to ask key questions that can only be answered using information from the app interface. Confirming the driver and passenger names or the destination are just a few examples.
While these examples are user-initiated, in-app authentication of license plate number, driver information, or other identifying criteria could soon become standard. Just as multi-factor authentication quickly toppled the once single-sign-in world, encouraging “active” rider safety features could prove to be an effective precautionary measure.
New technology is continually introduced to protect passengers at every stage of the rideshare process. The leading companies are offering en-route protective measures for added safety and security. The key is integrating data of the car and passengers with emergency service providers.
Both Uber and Lyft offer in-app options to share your ride status with family and friends. This information can include make and model of the vehicle, estimated arrival time, and even route information. If a passenger veers off course or fails to make it to the destination at the expected time, emergency contacts outside of the ride can use these key descriptors to request emergency assistance. Such tools can be a valuable checkpoint for passenger safety.
Uber brought a new level of safety to the rideshare industry through its integration with RapidSOS. Without leaving the app, Uber riders can access the 9-1-1 assistance feature to discreetly text or call emergency service providers, whichever is the safer option. This gives dispatchers near instantaneous access to additional critical information, such as precise location data, the identity of the caller, and details of the driver, via RapidSOS technology.
Providing access to emergency services is one of the most effective ways rideshare companies can make users feel safe. Whether that means sharing trip status with family or friends or the ability to immediately and discreetly contact 9-1-1 centers and emergency service providers, rideshare services are pioneering new ways to keep their customers safe.