Uber launches new audio recording option for Kansas City rides

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Beginning Tuesday, Dec. 7, Uber is introducing a new in-app safety feature that will allow drivers and riders in Kansas City to record audio during trips.

Kansas City is one of three cities in the United States where Uber is testing the feature. The other cities are Louisville and Raleigh-Durham.

In 2019, Uber reported more than 3,045 sexual assaults the year before, though the company pointed out that was out of more than 3 million average daily trips. But it’s been seeking ways to make rides safer and more comfortable for everyone.

The new feature launching Tuesday in Kansas City as part of a pilot program allows both drivers and passengers to record audio from their trips right in the app on their phone in the safety toolkit.

“It’s encrypted on their device and stays on their device, so if any uncomfortable situation happens, they can send it to us at Uber for us to review,” said Neil Chopra, Uber Safety Team’s senior product manager.

Drivers won’t be told the passenger is recording, which you can choose to start at any point.

“I think if I was by myself, I would turn it on or if the person seemed sketchy or something,” Brooke Wiedmayer, a UMKC student, said.

Passengers will only be told if the driver has opted in to the possibility of recording, and can choose to keep that ride or schedule another driver.

Though its a first in America, the program launched in 2019 in Latin America and is now used in 14 countries.

“It has been encouraging and empowering to people so that they know that they can let Uber know if something uncomfortable has happened and we can take the appropriate action,” Chopra said, citing a Brazilian study where 70% of respondents said the feature made them feel safer.

Uber said no one has access to the files, not the driver, rider or company unless a report is filed. Otherwise files will be deleted after 15 days.

Uber plans to email all drivers and app users in the Kansas City metro Tuesday with full details on how it works. Uber also will release the other cities included in the pilot program at that time. Chopra said there’s no timeframe for the pilot program.

“We’ll see what we are hearing from riders and drivers and then make any plans after that,” he said.

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