IMPROVING USER SAFETY FOR RIDE SHARING APPS

Categories

IMPROVING USER SAFETY FOR RIDE SHARING APPS

Screenshot 2021 06 21 at 18.16.56
Article by Susie Kahlich | Pretty Deadly Self Defense

Last week, I took an Uber to an appointment. According to the app, I would arrive 10 minutes early. When going to this office in the past, I’ve walked, biked, ridden public transit, and taken a taxi. I know all the routes. The driver was chatty and we started on a typical route with the roads surprisingly clear. Then he turned off the main road to take the side streets. 

I wasn’t particularly alarmed but I did feel uncomfortable — we have a unit dedicated exactly to this scenario in Pretty Deadly Self Defense, so I had an action plan should anything go wrong. But the driver was unnecessarily prolonging the trip by 10 minutes (according to the app’s own calculations), just so he could keep talking to me. It’s been a while since this has happened to me. I had almost forgotten this feeling of being trapped

Screenshot 2021 06 21 at 18.17.03
Image source: www.unsplash.com

This has happened before to a lot of women, not just in Ubers, but in Lyfts, in Grabs, and even in regular taxi cabs. It’s not necessarily even sexual, although it is definitely gendered. Distress and discomfort can come from just feeling obliged to answer questions to a stranger who already knows where you live or work. 

Taking action in this situation is not so simple. Clicking on Uber’s Safety button, the app doesn’t offer much. The Share My Trip feature allows a friend or family member can watch the route tracker. But if I had been watching this trip for a friend, I might assume construction or a traffic jam due to the rain — we were driving parallel to the original route, and there could be a million very banal reasons to take what looks like, on my app, a slight detour. 

I could send a message via the Report Safety Issue feature. I would get a message thanking me for reporting the issue in return, and a follow up call, neither of which really solve my problem. The Safety Center shows information about Community Guidelines, Uber’s driver screening process, and professional organizations for post-trauma or legal support, insurance options, naming “trusted contacts”, or calling for emergency help via a private security company. 

The Lyft app offers the same although the Emergency link, after 10 seconds, will send a signal to local police, also via a private security company. It’s not transparent the signal is classified — emergency responders depend upon that classification. Assuming it is classified as high priority, it still takes a responding unit an average of seven minutes to arrive on the scene. 

Seven minutes is a long time to be trapped in a car with someone. And it’s a very long time when you’re being threatened with violence or, worse, fending off an attack. Seven minutes is an eternity of you’re being raped, although it’s no time at all if you’re killed. A lot can happen in seven minutes. 

The problem with these safety features is that they only provide ways of calling for help, providing users with a vague sense that someone will eventually do something. But the whole reason a truly malevolent driver rolls up the windows, locks the doors, and drives off piste is because he knows – and female riders know – that no one can hear you scream. 

The safety features don’t reflect the reality of real-time panic or fear. It’s true that harsh braking may not be “top of mind” when your ride drops you at an important meeting that you’re walking right into. But it’s not “top of mind” issues that are at play when a person feels threatened or in fear of being physically harmed or killed. It’s survival. 

A user can make a report and she’ll be refunded, contacted by the support team, and assured that she won’t be matched with that driver ever again. But she still has had to go through the experience. None of the safety responses indicate any plan to reduce the long-term cost to the victim. While post-trauma support alleviates the cost, it does not eliminate it. On average, sexual assaults translate into individual costs of more than $1 million over the lifetime of the victim. In incidents through ride-hailing apps, who pays for that post-trauma support? 

Meanwhile the driver may still out there driving. Who knows how many times he continues assaulting, or just creeping on, passengers before another woman reports it – because women don’t actually feel comfortable reporting it. No matter how strongly Uber or Lyft, et al. encourages users to report incidents, more often than not, users feel so endangered from the exchange, they simply delete the app. 

Uber made history by making their study on sexual violence and rider safety open source, and their solutions as well, from fitting out their ride hailing app with safety features to providing sexual violence awareness training to their drivers, to training and empowering safety support teams around the world. They’ve now become industry standard. 

However, when women answer questionnaires and surveys about sexual assault and violence, there is stigma associated not only with the subject itself, but also with the answers. Only a small percentage of respondents are willing to speak frankly about their experiences, skewing the data. As Uber says about it’s own safety report, it’s hard to solve a problem if you can’t see it. But their in-app safety solutions and even pre-screening and reporting measures still don’t seem to see the reality of user experiences or safety needs in the moment. 

What I realized I was looking for in the Uber app on that ride is exactly the kind of information we teach in our Pretty Deadly Self Defense Taxi Unit: I wanted advice. How do I get out of this? What if I tell him to stop and let me out, and he locks the doors instead? What can I do right now?

Screenshot 2021 06 21 at 18.17.12
Susie Kahlich | Self-defense for women

We provide all our users with practical information for the scenarios above, from safely cutting a ride short to de-escalating an angry driver to worst-case scenarios of being taken to an off-grid location. Since space is so constrained in a moving vehicle, none of the solutions we offer are based on physical techniques. Instead, our solutions inform action plans that can be executed easily and immediately. 

Ride share companies have already innovated both mobility and opportunities for economic empowerment for local economies. They have the potential to be true innovators in user safety too, by providing practical, pragmatic, user-focused solutions with actionable, effective information that can be used right away. 

We’d love to share our expertise and work with Uber and other ride-sharing apps to help ensure the short- and long-term safety of all passengers and drivers, and make sure that ride-hailing and ride-sharing continues to be the option people feel safe to use.


Article written by Susie Kahlich | Pretty Deadly Self Defense

Check out more of our guest articles from our Partner Network here.

Related Reading

MaaS

No MaaS. No Multimodality.

Previously, movmi looked at transportation plans from 20 municipalities across Europe and North America and found how MaaS can be designed and tailored to suit the needs of small and big municipalities. In an effort to make access to alternative mobility modes as easy, are MaaS platforms able to strike a balance between mobility service providers (MSPs) and end users? While changing behaviour cannot be achieved without a truly user-centric seamless approach, are business interests of MSPs being considered enough?

In this article we explain how MaaS:

1. Creates a reliable, seamless multimodal user experience.

2. Improves visibility for MSPs in a sea of options available to users.

3. Ultimately increases alternatives for the users and create a rewarding ecosystem for existing and new MSPs to offer the best of their services towards a multimodal future.

Read More »
electric carsharing whitepaper

Electric Carsharing Whitepaper, 2021

The EV industry is maturing at a fast rate to improve vehicle and charging technology. Conservative and overly restrictive policies only prove to hinder innovation. Policies that easily adapt to and foster innovation can help bridge the operational gaps that can ultimately make the mass transition to EVs more feasible. In this whitepaper, we take a deep dive into electric carsharing: user experience, electric vehicles policies, operational feasibility and charging infrastructure. We also analyse EV policies from 9 different cities and scan the top carsharing favoring cities worldwide to understand what has helped and what other factors need to be considered in order to truly electrify carsharing.

Read More »
mobiag

Partner Spotlight: Interview with João Félix, Founder and CEO of Mobiag

This month, movmi’s Venkatesh Gopal chats with João Félix, Founder and CEO at Mobiag – a shared mobility technology pioneer powering free-floating, round-trip and station-based car-sharing, car rental, and scooter-sharing businesses around the globe. Their tools – the latest hardware for numerous vehicle models, customizable mobile apps for iOS and Android, and open SAAS with dynamic third party integrations – are robust and flexible, empowering businesses to implement their innovative business and operational models.

Read More »

Financial Fridays: Bringing Carsharing to Properties

For the fifth session of our Financial Fridays series this year, movmi is joined by Thomas Martin, Director of Business Development at SWTCH, Judith Häberli, Co-Founder and CEO at Urban Connect AG and Galina Russell, Senior Vice President at REEF. In this webinar, the panel discusses bringing carshare (especially EVs) to your property.

Read More »
5 climate change success stories

5 Climate Change Success Stories

Change does not usually happen overnight, especially within the transportation sector. Our vision of a sustainable transportation eco-system, significantly reducing GHG emissions and effectively turning the tide on climate change, just isn’t progressing as fast as we would like and this can be disheartening.

However, we have seen climate change success stories over the last few years, that have given us hope and the encouragement to continue working to reduce GHG emissions and to fight climate change.

Read More »

E-Learning Course “Shared Mobility 101”  AVAILABLE NOW!