Uber Technologies is going to launch an optional audio recording pilot program in three US cities to improve safety, allowing drivers and riders to send trip recordings to Uber in case of a safety incident.
In 2017 and 2018 Uber disclosed that it had received 6,000 reports of sexual assault and 107 road deaths related to 2.3 billion US trips. The recording feature is intended to provide drivers and riders with added security if they feel uncomfortable, and allow users to submit proof of how a situation unfolded, Uber said.
The audio recording feature was launched in Latin America two years ago and is available in 14 countries in the region, but will roll out in the United States for the first time.
The Uber app will allow drivers and riders to opt into audio recording for individual trips, starting in Kansas City, Missouri, Louisville, Kentucky and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina later this month.
Riders are alerted to drivers potentially recording a trip via an in-app banner and can cancel if they are uncomfortable, Uber said.
Uber Vice President of Product Management Sachin Kansal said the company has applied lessons learned in Latin America to ensure privacy, transparency and convenience.
Kansal said that encrypted recordings are stored in the Uber app and users are not able to play them. If a safety incident occurs, users can send the recording to qualified Uber staff who are able to decrypt it, according to Kansal.
Kansal said that people will be very accepting of this feature. Uttara Sivaram, Uber's senior manager of public policy, said the company would initially focus the recording feature on US jurisdictions with one party consent laws.
A spokeswoman said on Wednesday the company was waiting for full-year traffic fatality data from US regulators to finalise its safety report for the years 2019 and 2020.