Saturday, 9 July 2016

Panic Button and Tracking in Cab apps - yet not safe...

Earlier in July another chilling news hit all media. The company in the news was Uber. Not the first time that Uber was in news on concerns over rider safety - especially that of women and children. The rider - a girl from Kolkata - was threatened by the driver that he would rape her and dump her body in a ditch if she screamed. The brave girl jumped off the moving car and escaped. Now the driver is arrested, yet the issue is far from over. 

Safety features in taxi apps

Taxi apps have been in the news for many of the wrong reasons - concerning safety of customers, especially that of women. There had been a few rape or assault cases on women riders hailing taxi alone late at night. The government has issued a directive to have panic button in every cab and cab related app, that would connect with local police. In fact Uber actually has one, in addition to capability to share your ride with friends/family. 

Uber launched SOS features a year ago and made sure to hog media limelight. Ola followed the suite. Recently the Chinese cab aggregator Didi Chuxing announced the same. A couple of months ago Uber announced trip-tracker - a feature to let your family/friends track your trip.

Where safety features fail...

And yet, we hear these stories often. Perhaps very few users try to use these features. Maybe because the features are not easy to use or they do not work as expected. Probably both. I myself went through the screens in one of my rides to see how it worked. I received a call from Uber about 7-8 minutes after I activated Panic mode. I appreciate their response, but in real life situation, that could be a lot of delay.

This blogger too had similar findings...

Clearly, this panic feature is not best suited to help someone who is in danger. How would the Kolkata girl go through multiple screens when the driver did everything to harm her? Surely she was not making use of Uber-track either. The question is - why is this not so commonly known?

And another question - what would you do if you are not in Ola/Uber? You may use public transport or autos. What if you booked a ride for someone - e.g. friend or family, and you are not travelling? In these cases the traveller does not benefit from panic feature, nor can have her ride tracked.

What riders expect in safety features

The current solutions may be far from perfect. Yet there can be significant improvement in user experience. 
  1. Firstly, it should be very easy to discover/access SOS button, it should not trigger false alarms (or people would stop using), and there should be maximum two touches before sending message. 
  2. Secondly - rider should find this feature in the same way with ease, no matter which device he/she is using, or which app is on top. 
  3. Finally - the other end of the SOS button should be capable of action. That is the police or emergency service. If not the police, atleast someone who cares enough about you, to be counted up to take necessary action. 

The first two are very much within the scope of app design. While the third one needs buy-in from government agencies, safety can still be implemented at the family/friends circle level. Everyone has someone or the other caring enough, and capable of action.

What Reaching Soon is doing about it

Of course, we want our users and their family to be safe. Our product is universal - and we insist that you use it irrespective of whether you are using Ola, Uber, Kali-Peeli, auto, bus, train, metro, office appointed cab or even a friends vehicle. When it matters, you should be located from door to door, not just trip start to end. 

We are also adding Panic button that can be accessed quickly, which will connect with your emergency contacts. This will be in addition to any chatting/communication features that we shall have in the app. 

Share your thoughts on this below this post or write to us at [email protected] . We shall make every attempt to make the app most beneficial to you. And if you have not used the app yet, download it from Google Play Store and start using it.

(Panic Button image credit - Lets Panic Later by wackystuff