Ride-hailing giant Uber is launching a range of new safety procedures and features including a panic button on its app linked directly to the emergency services.
In a blog post the company said: “We’re rolling out a new emergency button in the app that can automatically communicate the car’s location to a 911 centre.”
It is thought that the changes in the US version of the app will eventually make their way into the other territories where Uber co-ordinates its 15 million rides every day.
Another innovation that the tech company has unveiled is the ability to allow family or friends to monitor Uber journeys.
As the company puts it: “We’ve added a feature that allows riders to share live trip information with up to five trusted contacts, so there are multiple sets of eyes on each ride.”
Uber has faced intense scrutiny of its business practices in the last six months.
In September 2017 London became the first UK city to refuse to renew the company’s taxi-licence. The company is currently appealing against that decision.
It followed opposition from national and municipal governments around the world.
Transport for London (TfL) concluded the ride-hailing app firm was not fit and proper to hold a London private hire operator licence saying it took the decision on the grounds of “public safety and security implications”.
The decision has since been followed by York and Brighton in the UK.
The company came out swinging initially saying: “Far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies.”
However, since then it has faced more criticism and regulation in other parts of the world and is now openly atoning.
Last year, the Lebanese Government warned people not to use Uber but to flag down “traditional” taxis after an Uber driver was arrested over the murder of British diplomat Rebecca Dykes.
In the blog post it acknowledged “maintaining the public’s trust, and earning back the respect of customers we’ve lost through our past actions and behaviour, is about more than new products and policies.
“It requires self-reflection and a willingness to challenge orthodoxies of the past.”
The Silicon Valley giant is not just stopping at tech solutions either. Driver screenings have been strengthened by re-running criminal background and motor vehicle checks each year.
All of this builds a picture of Uber making things safer for passengers in response to high profile sexual harassment and abuse allegations.
The company also says it has changed its procedures around sexual assault allegations for example, no longer requiring mandatory arbitration for individual claims by passengers.
In another major step the company is committing to publishing a “safety transparency report” to include data on sexual assaults and other incidents.
These are major changes for a company that has been dogged by controversy during its rapid rise to global dominance.
As well as criticism over safety, it has been accused of failing to protect workers’ rights and covering up a major data breach.