After years of resisting major changes pushed by riders and government regulators, Uber announced upgrades this week it said are aimed at keeping its U.S. ride-hail customers safe.
The mobility company will add an emergency 911 feature akin to a “panic button” — a type of enhanced 911 that connects passengers directly with emergency personnel, and allows them to share their location with the operator. The company said it also will bolster driver screening by mandating annual reviews of background checks to ensure drivers remain in compliance with its standards. And it plans to allow riders to share their trip information with up to five “trusted contacts” on every trip so there are multiple sets of eyes to ensure rides go smoothly, the company said.
The changes, expected to be in place this summer, were unveiled as part of a broad package of changes that CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said represent a push to “double down on safety in our app” and “strengthen our screening process.”
And when there were no more cab cartels to crush, Uber and Lyft decided to organize their own. The ride-share giants just announced a new regulatory cabal to lobby the government on autonomous vehicles and to smother new competitors in the cradle.
Along with more than a dozen other companies, the pair signed something called the “shared mobility principles for livable cities.” Most of the outlined principles are feel-good, tech gobbledygook. The 10th is terrifying: “autonomous vehicles in dense urban areas should be operated only in shared fleets.”
“Due to the transformational potential of autonomous vehicle technology, it is critical that all AVs are part of shared fleets, well-regulated, and zero emission,” they declared in a statement, adding that sharing the ride-share fleets would “maximize public safety” while also ensuring “that maintenance and software upgrades are managed by professionals.”
Everyone knew automation was coming. Eliminate the driver from the ride-share equation — costs dip and profits increase. Ubers without drivers have already been picking up passengers in downtown Pittsburgh for more than a year. But they just don’t want anyone else to have this technology.