Uber adds ‘panic button’ to app that allows riders to call for help in emergencies

HOMEWOOD, AL (WBRC) - When you take an Uber, do you feel safe?

Recent security upgrades now allow you to dial 911 directly from the app. This comes after a number of safety issues in recent years with the ride-sharing service.

"Anything you can give a customer in an Uber vehicle that would help protect them if something goes awry other than 911 is great idea,” Sgt. John Carr with Homewood Police said.

The panic button, as it has being called, was first released in April. You must be en route in order to use it. Just look for the badge icon, click on it and it will open up the 911 button. The company hopes it gives peace of mind to passengers.

We recently put it to the test. We made the call from the parking lot in between the Piggly Wiggly and CVS store in Homewood. Before the call, it shows your exact location and even the make, model and tag number of the Uber vehicle. Once we made the call, it shows our location as the “Piggly Wiggly” on Homewood PD’s dispatch screen.

Within a few minutes, help arrived. Sgt. Carr tells us the new safety feature could be a game-changer.

“It seems like it takes a step out for the customer. You aren’t physically dialing 911 if I understand it correctly. It’s a time saver really. A lot of times, it’s crucial that you get that call in. I’m glad to know it works in Homewood,” Carr said.

Uber is also in the process of adding an emergency button for its drivers. Our driver Julia feels it’s just another way to keep everyone safe.

"I think its wonderful because mainly the people who don't use Uber regularly think that it’s not safe and it is. I use it all the time as a passenger and I've never felt like I was in danger,” Julia said.

If you need to dial 911, some people may not know exactly where they are and sometimes cell phone tower information may be inaccurate. Uber says having access to precise locations makes things easier and safer for riders and drivers.

We’ve strengthened our background checks and introduced new screening technology and policies to help make the Uber community safer. You can read more on the safety changes here.

We’re told other ride-sharing services are planning to roll out similar safety features in the near future.

Copyright 2018 WBRC. All rights reserved.