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Uber to freeze fake rider account names, pilot front-facing video recording

Uber is releasing a suite of new safety features geared toward the driver, including freezing fake rider account names and piloting a front-facing video recording tool to replace a driver's dashcam.

The safety features follow a feedback period from drivers that Uber began this summer.

It looks like drivers have been having a hard time with fake user names. Uber, in its attempt to prevent discrimination based on someone's name, has allowed riders to update their names in the app. The result is some users changed their names to cartoon characters or "even offensive language," which Uber said "can lead to challenging pickups or uncomfortable situations for drivers."

Uber will conduct a large audit of rider account names and freeze any accounts with clearly fake names. Riders will have to update or validate their account names with Uber's support agents to have their accounts unblocked, the company said.

Drivers will also be able to flag any fake or inappropriate names in their app's Help section.

Uber is also expanding its audio recording feature and piloting front-facing video recording. The ride-hail giant says in-app audio recording during rides has helped it determine the best course of action after a safety incident, and it's helped riders and drivers feel safer when using the app. Uber has been piloting audio recording in three U.S. cities over the past year and will now expand to six new U.S. cities next month, including Cincinnati, Nashville, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and Tucson.

The video recording trial, which will take place in Cincinnati, Louisville and New York City in the U.S. and Santos and João Pessoa in Brazil, will allow drivers to record video using the front-facing camera on their smartphone. The idea is to replace an interior-facing dashcam with a much cheaper and easier to set up alternative, and it will allow drivers to record both video and audio on every trip, the company said.

As with the audio recording feature, no one, including the driver, can access the recording unless the driver wants to share it with Uber to find information in a safety-related incident, Uber said.

Uber also revealed some new road safety features on Thursday. The company said its in-app navigation system will now suggest fewer left turns, which according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, result in 22% of crashes. The navigation will also alert drivers to "watch for cross traffic" when approaching an intersection without a four-way stop.