Uber's latest safety features include 911 texting, bike lane alerts

The San Francisco-based ride-hailing company Uber on Thursday announced several new safety features debuting on the app to help both riders and drivers feel safer.

The new features, which will be rolled out in the coming months, include a 911 text feature, bike lane alerts, ride verification using Bluetooth technology, on-trip reporting and real-time identification checks 
for drivers.

"It's not just about interpersonal safety, it's also about road safety," said Uber's head of safety products Sachin Kansal. "Safety on the platform is the most important thing."

The 911 text feature allows riders and drivers to discreetly text for emergency help, sending 911 information like car make and model, license plate number and location details.

The Bike Lane Alert, which will be rolled out in more than 200 cities worldwide, will send riders push notifications just before they get dropped off by their driver, so they can be aware of bike lanes along the road when exiting the vehicle.

The On-Trip Reporting allows riders to report to Uber's safety team any safety issues during non-emergency situations.

The real-time ID check helps Uber confirm the driver is the same person using the app by asking the driver to perform a series of random movements like blinking, smiling and turning their head. The feature helps prevent fraud and protects driver accounts from being hacked.

The verification option will give riders a unique four-digit PIN to verbally provide the driver. Only once the correct PIN has been entered, the trip can start.

The newer safety features are part of a larger effort by Uber to improve ways to keep users safe.

"It's an ongoing journey for us. It's a long-term commitment, it's not one and done. We're putting a lot of resources behind that commitment," Kansal said.

Last year, Uber launched safety features like emergency buttons on the app to automatically call 911 and the ability for riders to share their location and driver information with phone contacts.

The launch of those features came after San Francisco police in July 2018 arrested Orlando Vilchez Lazo, 38, dubbed the "Rideshare Rapist" and accused of posing as a ride-hail driver in order to sexually assault women.