Drivers, SC Lawmakers react to Uber’s new safety features

SC drivers and lawmakers react to new safety features
SC drivers and lawmakers react to new safety features(Emily Wakeman)
Updated: Sep. 23, 2019 at 7:17 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Uber rolled out new measures last week to help rideshare riders and drivers stay safe.

Both Uber and S.C. Legislators have been working to increase safety in the wake of the death of USC student Samantha Josephson who Columbia police say mistakenly got into a vehicle that she thought was her uber.

The new feature is called a ride check. It uses the driver’s GPS and phone to track if suspicious activity is happening during the ride, such as the car making an unexpected stop.

But one uber driver in Columbia said that one important aspect of the feature isn’t clear.

“Uber hasn’t actually been quite clear what happens if you don’t do anything with that notification,” Niko Riemer, an uber driver in Columbia, said.

The new Ride Check feature sends both riders and drivers a notification if it detects unusual activity, including an unexpected stop or a possible crash.

The driver or rider can say everything is fine or call 9-1-1. However, Riemer worries this isn’t enough.

“So say it sits like that for five minutes, does it send a notification to the authorities anyone?” Reimer said. “Or does it just kind of sit there? Because if someone’s got a gun pointed at you, or is kidnapping you, then they’re not going to let you touch your phone.”

Riemer said as a driver he experiences uncomfortable situations weekly and it can be scary for both riders and drivers.

“Unfortunately, no matter what they do there is still a risk involved,” Riemer said. “No matter how many safety features they put in, but the more the better.”

Representative Seth Rose, who sponsored the Samantha Josephson Ridesharing Safety Act, said the new safety measures are a good step, but more can still be done in the legislature.

“I’d say mainly we should look at background checks that mirror what’s required for taxi cab companies,” Rose said. “I think also having local governments look at particular in the entertainment districts having pickup points for rideshare vehicles, sort of like you’d see at an airport so it’s not just a free for all.”

Reimer said for rider safety, he thinks the most important thing is for riders to ask the driver who they are waiting for. He said many riders will tell their name or mistakenly try to get into his uber.

The Samantha Josephson Ridesharing Safety Act made it a criminal offense for someone to pose as a rideshare driver and it requires that a rideshare driver has their license plate number in front of the car.

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