After the Maharashtra transport department decided to ban its mobile phone app, US-based taxi aggregator Uber said it will have in-app panic (SOS) button and a feature that allows passengers to share their real-time location, apart from forming special squads to assist passengers in emergency situations.
On Tuesday, the transport commissioner’s office had written to the government proposing that the app and website of the taxi aggregator be banned under section 63 (A) of the Information Technology Act.
Following reports, Shailesh Salwani, general manager, Uber India, wrote a blog post on the company’s website to clarify certain “misconceptions with respect to Uber’s safety initiatives”.
In the note, he announced that a panic button will be part of the Uber app, which can be accessed by a single tap, from February 11.
“We are launching two significant, additional built-in safety features — an in-app panic (SOS) button that allows a rider to alert the local police at the push of a button, and the safety net feature, which allows real-time tracking,” he said.
Uber also claimed they had shared details of all their vehicles and drivers associated with the transport department and traffic police to aid the police verification process.
Highlighting that all their drivers have GPS-enabled units and are tracked in real-time, Salwani claimed their mobile app allows passengers to see the driver’s details with his photograph.
The taxi aggregator claimed it had also formed a dedicated local incidents response team. “This specialised team has completed an extensive training programme by our US safety experts and will be reachable 24x7,” he said, adding, “It is the industry’s firm belief that the police, whose civic duty is to maintain law and order, are best equipped and authorised to respond to situations that demand enforcement.
The taxi aggregator claimed that installing physical panic buttons in the cars could cause confusion, as the drivers are free to work with other operators. Hence, if a vehicle works on four platforms, the car will need to have four physical panic buttons. “In a situation of distress, the rider will have to pick the correct operator’s panic button to be able to get help on time,” he wrote.
“Also, we found that physical buttons are not only prone to wear and tear, but also mechanical malfunctions. There is no way to ensure they are kept in working condition across all cars in the city,” said Salwani.
While claiming that installing panic buttons may be more pragmatic, Salwani said Uber will be happy to fund it only if a single physical panic button is installed in the car of an existing or interested prospective driverpartner on the Uber platform.