Uber announced a slew of new safety features Wednesday intended to give both riders and drivers peace of mind when using the app.
The biggest change is a system called “Ride Check.”
Uber says it’s an extension of the GPS system that tracks riders and drivers within the app — only now, it will be leveraged to detect possible crashes and anomalies such as unusually long waits. The system will send an alert to both the rider and driver asking whether there’s an issue, and give them the option to contact authorities or reach Uber’s safety line.
Uber says the feature is tuned to “flag trip irregularities beyond crashes that might, in some rare cases, indicate an increased safety risk.”
In early August, the New York City council voted to forbid Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing companies from adding any more cars to their fleets for the next 12 months. New York is the first American city to enact such a cap, though other cities are considering similar actions. The action took place amid the specter of six suicides by taxi drivers over the last six months and general concerns about traffic congestion in the city. Lawmakers sought to check the unregulated growth of the services and study just how many vehicles were actually required to provide appropriate transportation options during the pause.
There was, however, one important caveat to the bill that has gone largely unreported thus far: Uber and Lyft are still welcome to add as many wheelchair-accessible vehicles as they like. According to advocates for accessible transit in the future, this exception sets up a future not only for better transportation, but also for innovation around affordable wheelchair-accessible vehicle design.
Thank you for recognizing that DFHV is making the effort to be responsive to your feedback about Uber, Lyft, Via, limousine, and taxi services in the District of Columbia. As the summer comes to an end we ask you – members of the public – to share with us topics you will like to see in future correspondences with the for-hire ride industry. We appreciate your engagement with us through social media, Ask the Director, the telephone, and at community meetings. We are making progress in removing transit challenges so residents and visitors to the District are able to access a safe, affordable, and accessible ride of their choice.
ON TUESDAY AFTERNOON, Tesla CEO Elon Musk dropped a bombshell via—what else?—a tweet. “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420,” he wrote. “Funding secured.” The dude was serious, it turned out. But it’s not clear he had cleared the announcement with his lawyers. Nor his board. Nor the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has reportedly opened an investigation into whether that “funding secured” statement was, in fact, true. If it wasn’t, it just might cost the electric carmaker a metric ton in lawsuits. Or, worse comes to the absolute worst, prison? Elsewhere in the transportation universe, New York City’s city council made history by placing a one-year freeze on the number of Uber and Lyft vehicles on its streets, and by creating a minimum wage for its ride-hail drivers. This week, being a giant in the transpo space may prove expensive. Let’s get you caught up.
City leaders need to reckon with the reality that sometimes shared ride services are not part of the answer to urban congestion, argues transportation researcher Bruce Schaller.
Last week, the New York City Council took a big step toward stemming the traffic-clogging proliferation of Uber and Lyft vehicles, temporarily halting issuance of new vehicle licenses as well as authorizing a wage floor for ride-hailing service drivers. The historic bills, which Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law on Tuesday, signal that these companies can no longer run roughshod over legislative bodies in pursuit of growth and eventual profits.
But there has been pushback to the idea, contained in both the legislation and in my recent report, “The New Automobility,” that Uber and Lyft’s impact on big-city traffic needs to be contained. Some of this resistance comes, not unexpectedly, from the companies themselves, which strongly object to the moratorium while also accepting the wage-related provisions.
Perhaps more notable was criticism from other quarters. In a recent CityLab post, for example, Zipcar co-founder Robin Chase wrote that focusing on ride service growth “sets us up for failure” because Uber, Lyft, taxis and the like “account for just 1.7 percent of miles traveled by urban dwellers, while travel by personal cars accounts for 86 percent.” She calls for making “all shared modes of transit better and more attractive than driving alone.”