Uber is going to turn your smartphone into an automatic crash detector

One year ago, Dara Khosrowshahi took over the reins at Uber amid a series of spiraling, self-inflicted scandals, with the promise to right the ship by rescuing the ride-hail company’s abysmal reputation on safety and privacy.

Today, the company is celebrating Khosrowshahi’s first anniversary by introducing a host of new safety improvements for both riders and drivers, including a feature called “Ride Check” that utilizes the GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, and other sensors inside a smartphone to detect whether there has been a vehicle crash.

In the event of a crash, the Uber app will automatically send a notification to a rider’s phone to answer a series of questions. If they verify that there has been an accident, the rider will be prompted to call 911. Uber’s team of safety operators may also reach out to ensure the rider is safe when the feature is triggered.

The feature doesn’t require any new permissions because it is set off by the sensors in the driver’s smartphone, rather than the riders. Drivers have the Uber app on more frequently than riders, who typically keep the app on in the background during trips.

Ride Check isn’t just for crashes, though. The feature is also triggered if the vehicle stops for a prolonged or unusual period of time. Riders will receive a notification asking them if everything is alright, and based on their response, the app will present a series of options, including a call to 911.

“I want Uber to be the safest transportation platform on the planet,” Khosrowshahi said at an event in Manhattan on Wednesday.

The ride-hail company also released a number of other features, including voice commands and an insurance hub for Uber drivers, new ways to mask addresses and phone numbers between riders and drivers, and two-factor authentication to protect a rider’s account from malicious hacking.