Uber rolls out emergency button for mobile app, tests direct 911 feature

Mike Snider
Just as you can rate the driver, they can rate you. A low overall score could mean fewer drivers want to pick you up.

Uber is rolling out an emergency button in its mobile app.

Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of the ride-hailing company, last month said an emergency button that connected riders directly with police via 911 would soon be added to Uber's mobile app. That button is now incorporated within the app so riders can quickly call police for help in an emergency.

An additional safety measure Khosrowshahi announced last month is also now being tested in several cities: the Uber app's ability to automatically send a rider's name and location to 911 dispatchers, which would come in handy if the rider could not speak. Also transmitted: information about the Uber vehicle itself.

That pilot project is now active in five cities — Denver; Charleston, S.C.; Chattanooga and Tri-Cities, Tenn.; Naples, Fla.; Louisville — and Nashville will get it in the next few days, Uber told USA TODAY.

"Every second counts in an emergency," Sachin Kansal, Uber's director of safety products, said in a statement. "We want to make sure our users get help quickly with accurate information if faced with an emergency situation."

The new safety measures — NBC's Today show first reported their activation on Tuesday — are part of Uber's campaign to improve its image after charges it placed some riders in danger, as well as sexual harassment and discrimination within the company.

Two unnamed women in November 2017 filed a proposed class-action suit against Uber, alleging that its poor vetting of drivers has led to thousands of female passengers enduring a range of sexual harassment, including rape.

Former Uber software engineer Susan Fowler in February 2017 publicly detailed sexual harassment and discrimination that she and others had experienced at the company. That led to the June 2017 departure of co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick and the arrival of Khosrowshahi, previously CEO of Expedia, in August.

This month, Uber and Lyft said they no longer would require people alleging sexual assault or rape against the ride-hailing companies or their drivers to take their claims to forced arbitration.

More:Uber agrees to pay $10 million in class action discrimination suit

Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.