May 29, 2018 8:58 pm

Uber installs panic button for riders to curb sexual assault

A panic alarm is being added as a safety feature to every U.S. Uber rider's app, which will call 911. It's one of several safety features being added to the app.

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Uber is adding additional features — including a panic button — to help stop sexual assault and harassment.

The ride-sharing company has been facing accusations of sex crimes from its users directed at its drivers for years.

A class-action lawsuit, filed in November 2017, alleges that thousands of women have “endured unlawful conduct by their Uber drivers including rape, sexual assault, physical violence and gender-motivated harassment.”

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READ MORE: Uber handed class-action lawsuit from riders alleging sexual assault (Nov. 2017)

Since then the company has said it implemented stricter background checks for drivers.

The company also added a feature (which was first announced in April) on the Uber app that will allow riders to notify 911, and it’s testing a feature that would send the user’s location to 911 operators.

“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,” Tony West, Chief Legal Officer, wrote in a press release.

“And we’re rolling out a new emergency button in the app that can automatically communicate the car’s location to a 911 center.”

WATCH: Uber loses EU case as court rules France can bring criminal proceedings against 2 managers

The feature has been tested in India, according to AndroidPolice.com , and is now available in the U.S.

Uber has not replied to a request from Global News on whether the feature will be rolled out in Canada.

The feature is part of the company’s drive to improve safety.

“It’s clear that sexual violence remains a huge problem globally. The last 18 months have exposed a silent epidemic of sexual assault and harassment that haunts every industry and every community,” West wrote in the press release, referencing the #MeToo movement.

READ MORE: Even in a #MeToo climate, only 28% of Canadians understand consent

Along with the panic button, Uber is updating its policies to be “part of the solution” to sexual assault and harassment, what it called a “deeply rooted problem.”

First, the company will no longer require mandatory arbitration for sexual assault claims. Instead, the victim will be allowed to choose how to handle their accusation, in arbitration, mediation, or in criminal court.

Second, Uber is removing its confidentiality provision about sexual harassments and assaults.

READ MORE: #AfterMeToo: What Canada is doing to help protect women in the workplace

And third, the company has committed to publishing data on the number of sexual assault and harassment claims it faces.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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