The new feature will debut in Brazilian and Mexican cities next month and will allow recordings to be shared with law enforcement, if necessary. According to a report by the Washington Post, users will be told that their trips are subject to recording. However, neither riders nor drivers will be able to listen to the recorded conversations.
“When the trip ends, the user will be asked if everything is okay and be able to report a safety incident and submit the audio recording to Uber with a few taps,” an Uber executive wrote in an email obtained by the Washington Post.
“The encrypted audio file is sent to Uber’s customer support agents who will use it to better understand an incident and take the appropriate action.” In addition, the email states that Uber will test the feature in the US “soon” but doesn’t specify an exact date.
“Laws in the United States around consent to being recorded can vary from state to state, but we hope to be able to make this available nationally,” the email explains, pointing to a potential obstacle in rolling out the feature in the US.
According to Sachin Kansal, Uber’s head of safety products, the feature is supposed to lead to “safer interaction.”
“We have taken a position that whenever you are in an Uber, the feeling that we want both parties to have is ‘the lights are on.’" Kansa explained. “That leads to safer interaction on the platform.
In recent months, Uber has come under scrutiny, especially after the Post released an article in September detailing how the company’s special investigations unit allows drivers who are accused of rape, kidnapping and assault to keep working for the service. The company has been accused by hundreds of passengers and drivers over the years of overlooking sexual assault. Several passengers have filed lawsuits against the company, accusing drivers of raping and groping them.
Uber has added several safety features over the past three years. Last month, its RideCheck feature was rolled out, which notifies drivers and riders of a “possible crash or an unexpected long stop.” In 2018, Uber launched its in-app emergency button, which allows drivers to digitally share their trip information with friends and family and connect with 911 dispatchers.