US-based ride hailing app Uber on Tuesday said its users in India will now be able to call its 24x7 safety helpline to flag issues like misbehaviour, dispute with drivers or break-downs during an ongoing trip.
The new safety feature will allow riders to speak directly to Uber's inhouse safety team, and is in addition to the in-app SOS button already available in the safety tool kit that allows riders to connect to law enforcement authorities in an emergency.
The feature, which has been in pilot in Chandigarh since March, will be now rolled out across 40 Indian cities where it operates. The company has a similar version of the feature in markets like the US and Canada.
Support for callers will be available in English and Hindi to begin with. The feature is not yet available on Uber Lite, that is designed to work well in low connectivity situations and on phones with low storage space.
"All our riders will now be able to access this helpline, any time of the day or night, should they need urgent assistance during their trip," Pavan Vaish, Head of Central Operations (Rides), Uber India and South Asia said at a conference here.
So far, users could seek support by writing in within the Uber app. San Francisco-based Uber is locked in a bruising battle with Bengaluru-based Ola in India and other markets. Uber considers India as one of the key markets and has been pumping in investment to strengthen its presence in the hyper-competitive market.
"At Uber, we are constantly evaluating how to raise safety standards by integrating feedback we receive from riders on how they would like to communicate with us. Based on this, we are launching the 24x7 safety helpline today," Vaish added. He, however, asserted that the new tool is not a replacement for the emergency button available in the safety tool kit.
The new safety line will provide riders with an option to reach out to Uber's team for urgent, non-emergency issue, during a trip such as reporting a co-passenger's misbehaviour, a dispute with a driver or a break-down.
At the backend, trained representatives of the Safety Incident Response Team will be available around the clock to resolve such issues. The safety helpline number is available under the 'safety toolkit' banner hosted within the Uber app.
The company has already been running various initiatives including safety tool kit for riders and drivers, call anonymisation to protect the privacy of riders, and background checks of drivers. Vaish said that the company also engages closely with law enforcement agencies.