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Uber rolls out text-to-911 feature across the US

Christine Fisher
Contributing Writer
EVA MARIE UZCATEGUI via Getty Images

As part of its ongoing efforts to keep drivers and passengers safe, Uber is introducing a new, in-app text-to-911 feature in the US. It could be especially useful if a driver or passenger needs to contact emergency services discreetly, without escalating a situation further.

Users will be able to choose between calling 911 and texting. If they text, the feature populates an SMS text message with key trip details, including locations and vehicle information. Riders and drivers will be able to add info about their emergency, and dispatchers will be able to stay in communication with the person until help arrives.

For example, the auto-populated text might read:

I am taking a trip with Uber. White Toyota Prius ABC1234. My Current location is 1562 Poblano Street. My intended destination is 1455 Market St. My emergency is:

Uber is rolling out the feature in areas where emergency services can currently receive texts -- it has already been piloted in Los Angeles, Minnesota and Indiana. The 911 Assistance button will appear inside Uber's Safety Toolkit if the service is available.

Uber made 911 assistance available via the app (in the US) in 2018. Uber will know if you called or texted 911 through the app and will follow up with a message after the ride.

Uber doesn't have a great safety track record. Its first safety review documented nearly 6,000 reports of sexual abuse and 19 fatal physical assaults. The company has tested a number of safety features -- from making it easier to report problematic drivers to verifying rides with PINs. Still, some may say this text-to-911 feature is overdue, as a similar in-app panic button has been available to users in India since 2015.