How AURA technology is enhancing safety on the road

Ride-hailing services, such as Uber, are transforming the way we move around. A few clicks on a smartphone can have you on your way in no time, meeting the modern consumer’s need for on-demand, accessible and convenient services.

According to a recent report by Genesis Analytics and the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA), data from the South African Police Services shows that carjacking incidents have increased across the country over the past three years (2018 – 2020), jumping by a 10% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

To provide quick and reliable private armed and medical response to riders and drivers using the Uber app, Uber has collaborated with AURA, South Africa’s on-demand security and medical response platform. This collaboration provides drivers and riders on the Uber platform access to a vetted private security response unit, which is closest to their location, using a connected device. The AURA platform does this by using machine learning and AI to draw on the widespread power of private security companies and to hone its system to ensure that the closest responders are dispatched to a distress call.

“A proactive approach is what is needed to deal with these challenges”, says Uber’s Head of Mobility Operations at Uber Sub-Saharan Africa, Kagiso Khaole. “To help safeguard users on the platform, Uber uses technology-led security solutions like AURA, and continues to innovate and collaborate with law enforcement, tech companies and members of the public to stay a step ahead of sophisticated crime,” he says.

“By simply tapping the shield icon on the map in the Uber app, AURA connects a user to the nearest private armed or medical responder in the same way that Uber pairs riders with drivers,” says Warren Myers, AURA’s co-founder and CEO.

Uber app users are also empowered to guard their safety with Uber’s in-app Safety Toolkit. The toolkit features:

  • An emergency button powered by AURA, giving users quick access to private security and emergency services who can be dispatched to the user’s location;
  • Trusted Contacts, which allows users to select up to five friends and family members with whom the user can share their trip information with a single tap;
  • RideCheck, allowing Uber to check in on the user if it detects any odd activity on their trip, such as a long stop or an unusual route.

Tips on how to keep safe when hailing a ride

While ride-hailing services like Uber are incorporating automated and seamless security features into their offerings to help enhance driver and rider safety, what can you do to further minimise your safety risk? Here are some tips that you may find helpful:

  • When hailing your ride, avoid spending unnecessary time outside with your phone in your hand, especially if you are alone. Wait for your ride in a safe spot, preferably indoors or in a well-lit area, until the app alerts you that your driver has arrived.
  • When your driver arrives, check the car make, model, license plate and driver’s name to make sure it matches what’s on your app.
  • Available to riders is Real-Time ID Check which prompts drivers periodically to take a selfie before accepting rides and compares it to the driver’s profile photo. This helps ensure the person driving matches the account registered on the app.
  • Uber also has a ‘Verify Your Ride’ option which is a PIN verification that provides an optional extra layer of protection to ensure you’re getting into the right vehicle with the right driver. You can choose to opt into this feature for added peace of mind on every ride.
  • Whenever possible, sit in the back seat, especially if you’re riding alone, so that you can safely exit on either side of the vehicle to avoid moving traffic, and it gives you and your driver some personal space.
  • When in the car, avoid having valuables in plain sight. Keep your personal belongings close to avoid attracting unwanted attention.
  • Use your intuition: There is no need to share personal information with your driver, Uber has an anonymous contact system to ensure riders and drivers don’t need to share their personal information. You can contact a driver at any time through the Uber app. If something doesn’t feel right, follow your intuition. And if you’re ever in an emergency, simply tap the shield icon on the map to access the in-app emergency button to call for assistance.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Look out for suspicious vehicles while you wait or at your destination.