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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Uber launches new app features to make service safer

Changes will help prevent driver fatigue and improve passenger safety

Sachin Kansal, Uber’s global head of safety, addresses the media at the launch of the company's new "safety toolkit" in Dubai.
Sachin Kansal, Uber’s global head of safety, addresses the media at the launch of the company's new "safety toolkit" in Dubai.

Ride-hailing app Uber has unveiled new features to improve the safety of its passengers across the GCC.

Uber drivers will be prevented from working more than 12 consecutive hours under the changes announced on Wednesday.

Other features include speed alerts for the driver and a button on the app to allow passengers or drivers to be put straight through to emergency services.

The upgrades to the Uber app come after the company faced criticism around the world for failing to sufficiently vet its drivers.

“There is nothing more important than the safety of riders, drivers and couriers,” said Sachin Kansal, Uber’s global head of safety.

“Over the past year, we’ve been working to develop innovative products that increase transparency, accountability and peace of mind for all users.

“The roll out of our new safety toolkit across Europe, Middle East and Africa is the next step in making sure that we’re helping everyone stay safe and connected, wherever you might be.”

On Tuesday, it was reported Uber - which has never made a profit - could be worth $120 billion if it goes public next year. The proposed figure is around $50bn more than the company’s most recent valuation, setting the stage for what could be one of the biggest listings.

Speaking at a launch of the new safety features in Dubai, Mr Kansal said the company was leaving "nothing to chance" when it came to user safety.

He said another feature would protect the personal mobile number of both passenger and driver.

Previously, when a passenger needed to speak to a driver, both of their personal mobile numbers would be displayed.

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On Wednesday, Thomas Edelmann, managing director of RoadSafetyUAE, welcomed the improvements to Uber’s safety features.

He said preventing drivers from working more than 12 hours would help combat fatigue on UAE roads. Having reached their time limit, drivers must go offline for at least six hours.

“Fatigue is a key issue when it comes to commercial drivers as they often work long hours,” he said.

Mr Edelmann said he hoped Uber’s announcement would help set an example to other companies operating in the Gulf region.

“These commercial fleets should actually lead by example,” he said. “They can put these policies in place."

The new safety features will be introduced in 23 European countries as well as in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.