Uber introduces new feature to let riders “discreetly” snitch on their drivers

Uber updated its app to let riders “discreetly” report instances that may not rise to the level of an emergency but still made them feel unsafe while on a trip. The examples that Uber gives include “harsh braking,” “inappropriate remarks,” or a driver who isn’t paying attention to the road. But I’m sure many people who use Uber can come up with a litany of ways to use this new reporting feature.

Lately, Uber has been trying to strike a balance between improving safety for riders and recognizing that drivers can be victims, too. The company recently released its first safety report, in which it disclosed that 3,045 sexual assaults occurred during Uber trips in 2018. Additionally, nine people were murdered during Uber rides, and 58 people died in auto-related crashes. Interestingly, Uber said that drivers reported being victims of assaults at roughly the same rate as riders.

Uber introduced an in-app panic button in 2018 that lets riders contact 911 at the touch of a button. But obviously, not all safety instances require calling the cops. Now, riders can subtly snitch on their drivers from right in the app. Uber says the feature is intended to give riders the opportunity to report inappropriate behavior during a trip, when it’s on the top of their mind, rather than at the end of the trip. The feature is available starting today in the US and Canada.

“By eliminating barriers to reporting safety issues, our goal is to encourage more reporting which will ultimately help make the app safer for everyone,” Uber says.

The hope, of course, is that this new feature isn’t abused by riders to report their drivers for insignificant slights, like not driving fast enough or failing to comport themselves in a way that’s expected by the rider. Riders already hold a lot of sway over drivers through the rating system. Drivers are routinely deactivated for falling below a certain level. Riders can be deactivated, too, but that happens much less frequently.

Back in the day, we had taxis and passengers — and no illusions of community. Taxis also had partitions between drivers and riders and probably for good reason. But ride-sharing companies have ushered in an era of part-time drivers, fist-bumps, and an evolving dynamic in the car that Uber is still struggling to define.