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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Uber’s 911 ‘panic button’ is now live in its U.S. app

The Uber app on an iPad in Baltimore in March. (Associated Press)
By Rex Crum Mercury News (San Jose)

Some have already taken to calling it the “panic button.” But for Uber, adding the ability to call 911 directly from within its app is meant to provide a better sense of security for its riders.

On Tuesday, Uber rolled out the 911 capability in its app across the United States, after saying in April the feature was in the works. Riders can find the option in a new safety center area that can be accessed from the app’s home screen.

To dial 911, riders will need to swipe up on the safety center icon, and then tap “911 assistance.” They will then be asked to confirm their intention of dialing 911 before the call will be put through to emergency dispatchers.

“Every second counts in an emergency,” said Sachin Kansal, Uber’s director of safety products, in a statement announcing the new 911 dialing capability. “We want to make sure our users get help quickly with accurate information if faced with an emergency situation.”

Uber said it will also launch a similar option in the app that its drivers use to arrange their ride pickups.

The addition of the 911 function comes as Uber continues to deal with a spate of reports about sexual assault and harassment involving some of its drivers against passengers.

Additionally, Uber said it is launching a 911 integration pilot program in select U.S. markets that sends a rider’s location and trip details automatically to a 911 dispatcher when the in-app feature is used. The location-sharing program is part of an effort to improve on the location accuracy rates of 911 dispatchers and is being tested in Denver, Charleston, South Carolina; Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Naples, Florida.