It’s no secret that companies like Uber are changing the way that people move around their cities. In the past, if a person wanted to go from the bars on Broadway in Southie back to her apartment near Boston University, she would wait outside for a cab to drive by — or she would take a 40-50 minute ride on the T, whose nearest stop, Andrew on the red line, is a half hour walk away. Today, with Uber, she can press a button on her phone, wait inside for two minutes before being picked up, make sure her friends can watch her route live on a map, and be dropped off at her doorstep 12 minutes later.
It may feel like magic — but it’s not. This is due to technology. And technology doesn’t just make it easier for you to get a ride — it also makes sure you have a safe ride.
Of course, this is all very new. Uber has only been in Boston for four years and even the iPhone is still less than ten years old. That’s why we wanted to share with you some of the steps we take for safety.
It may not be magic. In fact, it’s a huge responsibility that we take very seriously. But we’re excited about the ways technology is improving safety in Boston in so many different ways. We hope you will be too.
Meet the Team
Every day, the 60 people in the Uber Boston team are working hard to make sure that riders and drivers are getting to where they need to go. They work closely with the 70 safety and security experts based at Uber’s headquarters and around the world to help develop new technologies and practices for improving safety for Red Sox, Pats, and Dunkin Donuts fans everywhere.
Meghan Verena Joyce
General Manager, East Coast
General Manager, Boston
Chief Security Officer
They also receive advice and guidance from Uber’s Safety Advisory Board, a group of independent experts in the areas of law enforcement, online safety, road safety, and women’s safety. Former Boston Police Commissioner and Lowell native Ed Davis brings over 30 years of law enforcement experience to the board.
Indiana University Bloomington, Maurer School of Law
National Network to End Domestic Violence
Former Boston Police Commissioner
Covington Burling and former Chief of Staff to Eric Holder
Former United States Secret Service Director
Former Deputy Executive Director, TX Department of Transportation
More Than A Smooth Experience
Ask any Bostonian why they like Uber, and they’ll probably talk about the Uber experience: the ease of pushing a button on their phone and getting a ride within minutes. For example, customers like the seamless payment method that removes the need for cash. They also appreciate receiving their driver’s name, photo, and vehicle information in advance, so they know who’s coming to pick them up.
While all of this makes for a smooth customer experience, these features are also there to ensure safety. And there are several other examples of how Uber uses technology to ensure safety before, during, and after every single ride.
Before Getting into the Car
- No more street hails or waiting outside to find a ride. You can start the Uber app from anywhere and wait safely for your car to arrive. That means no standing on the street to hail a cab or struggling to find the nearest bus stop late at night.
- Reduced discrimination. Every request you make is matched to a nearby available driver – which strongly reduces discrimination based on the color of your skin, your gender, the time of day, your pickup or drop-off point.
- Trips are no longer anonymous. When a driver accepts your request, you see his or her first name, photo, and license plate number. You can also check whether others have had a good experience with him or her. In addition, the driver can see your first name and rating. You can contact the driver—and vice versa— through the app if there is any confusion around pick-up details.
During the Ride
- Never get lost. You can see the route on the map in the app. The location is clearly marked so you know where you are on your journey—and if you are on the right route.
- Share your ETA and location. You can easily share your ride details, including the specific route and estimated time of arrival, with friends or family for extra peace of mind. They’ll receive a link where they can see in real time the name and photo of the driver, their vehicle, and where you are on the map until you arrive at your destination—and they can do all of this without having to download the Uber app themselves.
After the Ride
- Feedback and ratings after every trip. After every ride, you and your drivers are asked to rate each other and provide feedback. Our safety team reviews this information and investigates any issues.
- 24/7 Support. If you need assistance for anything regarding your trip, our customer support staff are ready to respond to any issues 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Rapid Response. We have a dedicated Incident Response Team to answer any more urgent issues. If we receive a report that a driver or rider has acted dangerously or inappropriately, we suspend their account, preventing him or her from accessing the platform while we investigate.
Behind the Scenes
- Contact without providing personal information. While riders and drivers are able to contact each other through the app, they won’t actually see each other’s real phone numbers. Uber uses technology that makes the phone numbers of riders and drivers anonymous so they do not have one another’s contact details going forward.
- Always on the map. Accountability is one of the things that helps riders feel safer while riding with Uber. We use GPS to keep a record of where a driver goes during the ride, allowing us to verify that the most efficient routes are being used, which creates accountability and a strong incentive for good behavior.
- Working with law enforcement. In cases where law enforcement provides us with valid legal process, we work to get them the facts, for example by providing trip logs. Again, transparency and accountability are at the heart of the Uber experience.
- Pre-screening drivers. All drivers must undergo a screening process before they can use the Uber driver app.
Of Course Riding In A Car Has Some Risk
For urgent matters, our specially trained Incident Response Team is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If law enforcement is involved, we work closely with them to provide information entities and agencies to aid them in their investigations.
Because you can only use Uber through your rider or driver account, Uber can quickly confirm the people involved in any given trip. We can also verify the time and location of trips due to GPS tracking. If needed, we can disable the rider and driver accounts in question and prevent them from accessing the platform until issues are resolved.
Technology Can Be Supplemented By Traditional Means
Before a person is allowed to drive with Uber, we complete a screening process that requires an applicant’s full name, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number, a copy of his or her driver’s license, vehicle registration, vehicle insurance, and a valid bank account.
To run the screenings, we work with Checkr, a third party background check provider accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners. Checkr runs a social security trace to identify addresses associated with the potential driver, and then checks the potential driver’s driving and criminal history in a series of national, state and local databases. These include the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, the PACER database, and several databases used to flag suspected terrorists.
This chart explains the primary requirements for allowing someone to drive with Uber:
|Age and Documentation|
In the past, the only way to determine if a person is safe was by checking their history — which is just one part of the picture. But with today’s technology, we can use data to measure actual driving behavior and quality on an ongoing basis. In fact, because riders and drivers can provide feedback for their rides, every single trip with Uber is a quality control check. That’s why driver screenings are part of our safety measures — but they’re just the first step.
Safety On the Roads
Because potential Uber driver-partners undergo a driving history review, individuals with a recorded history of serious and repeated driving violations are prevented from joining the platform as drivers. In Boston, more than 97% of people who fail the screening process do so due to past driving violations.
But screening is just the first step. We have an ongoing, data-driven assessment of safety and quality for every single trip using technology features like GPS tracking, trip ratings from riders and drivers, and user feedback. Uber is also piloting other new, creative ways to improve the experience for drivers and riders — for example, we can confirm the occurrence of speeding and hard braking through data.
Reduced Drunk Driving
With Uber, Bostonians can get a safe, reliable, convenient ride home when they need it most — especially late at night, when bars are closing and drunk driving fatalities are at the highest.
On a daily basis, we see more trip requests in the evening coming from places where people consume alcohol. In fact, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, over half of Uber trip requests in Boston come from locations serving alcohol.
Similarly, more Uber trips are completed around bar closing time. This means that many Bostonians are using Uber to get home safely during the times when drunk driving incidence are at their highest.
That correlation is also present during large local events. For example, we saw a notable spike in completed trips in Southie during the annual South Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March 2015. During that event, more people than usual used Uber to get around Southie safely..
Completed trips during St. Patrick’s Day
*The yellow bar indicates the South Boston Sunday Parade. The blue line shows trips in Southie.
Similar spikes are visible city-wide on festive holidays such as New Year’s Eve and Halloween.
Completed trips during New Year’s Eve celebrations
Completed trips during Halloween celebrations
*The yellow bar indicates Halloween Saturday.
Being There When It Counts
In times of community emergency, we are committed to doing our part to contribute and support our fellow Bostonians.
For example, after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, public transportation service in the city was suspended as law enforcement sought the fugitive bombers. Uber Boston remained active and was one of the only options for Boston residents to get where they needed to be. Rides to local hospitals were given for free so that people could receive help and be with their loved ones.
In 2015, when Massachusetts declared a state of emergency during Winter Storms Juno and Linus, dynamic pricing was capped per our national policy and we donated 100% of our proceeds on surged trips to the American Red Cross. As a result of trips riders took during this storm, Uber Boston donated over $100,000 to Red Cross Disaster Relief.
We also have a national partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to send Amber Alerts to drivers, who provide a valuable set of eyes in situations that require immediate awareness.
On a regular basis, our dedicated law enforcement outreach team works with local, state, and federal law enforcement entities. The outreach team, comprised of former law enforcement officers from throughout the country, facilitates practical workshops with local law enforcement officers about Uber’s technology and how it is used in their communities.
Constantly Working To Improve Safety
In Boston, over 850,000 people rely Uber as a way to move around town and we’re serious about our responsibility to make sure they’re getting around safely.
Our technology allows us to focus on safety in ways that simply were not possible before the Internet — let alone smartphones, which are still a young invention. But safety is not a static process; we are constantly working to develop new technologies and practices for improving safety for everyone using Uber to move around Greater Boston and Massachusetts.