Business Insider Edition

After stabbings and an acid attack, Uber South Africa introduces a new safety feature. But there's a catch.

James de Villiers , Business Insider SA
  • Uber South Africa launched a call-line to an incident response team on Tuesday morning.
  • Users can access it via the cellphone application's "help" feature.
  • The step follows months of violent attacks on Uber drivers and passengers in South Africa. 
  • SA users may be frustrated with the rather lengthy procedure to log an incident.

A call-line to an incident response team (IRT) has been introduced for all Uber passengers in South Africa, the global ride-sharing service announced on Tuesday morning. It will link to Uber's Global Incident Response Team network which was launched in 2015. But users may be frustrated with the rather lengthy procedure to log an incident.

The step follows months of violent attacks on Uber drivers in passengers in South Africa which, in one high-profile incident, saw a friend of popular local artist Jack Parrow stabbed in the face.

In a separate incident, acid was thrown in the face of an Uber driver in Johannesburg. 

The feature will help connect passengers with an emergency team 24/7, Alon Lits, General Manager for Uber Sub-Saharan Africa, said.

The feature has been in testing since December. 

“We have listened to the hundreds of thousands of riders using the Uber app in South Africa and they've expressed the need to be able to speak with our teams in the event of a critical safety-related issue," Lits said. 

Users can reach the response team by clicking on the "help" function on the Uber application. From there users should click "trip and fare review", select the relevant trip, and click on the "I had a safety-related issue" icon.

Once contact information and a short description of the incident has been provided, the rider would be phoned back "within minutes".

"While part of Uber’s commitment is to ensure rider safety, we strongly encourage riders to always first use the national emergency line (10111)," Lits added. 

A burnt out Uber car next to the road and the Gautrain track in University in Pretoria. (Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)

South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) spokesperson Thabisho Molelekwa previously told News24 that uber-meter taxi violence was sparked by "unequal competition" from Uber.

Uber operates in Cape Town, Durban, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Port Elizabeth.

Overall, the Uber network is available in over 600 cities in over 75 countries including spanning six continents. Authorities in London, Bulgaria, Denmark and Hong Kong have banned Uber because of various disputes. 

* This article has been updated to clarify that a call line to an incident response team (IRT) has been introduced for passengers and not for Uber drivers. 

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