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Uber launches safer service for young South Africans

Uber has launched a new service for 13 to 17-year-old South Africans as part of its efforts to grow its market share in the country while addressing safety concerns.

Called Uber Teen, the new service is linked to a parent or guardians’ Uber profile and enables youths to hail rides while their trips are monitored and tracked.

“Uber Teen accounts are built with transparency in mind so that there are no surprises for parents, teens, or drivers. Parents will receive real-time notifications and can follow along with live trip tracking every step of the way,” said General Manager of Uber sub-Saharan Africa, Kagiso Khaole.

How it works

Only experienced drivers with high satisfaction ratings who have passed local screening and background checks may participate in the Uber Teen service.

The drivers are unable to change the destination of the trip, and parents/legal guardians will be able to call them at any time during the journey.

Before a teen gets into the vehicle they will be required to furnish a unique personal identification number which the driver must enter into their Uber app before the trip can start, thus ensuring the right person gets into the right vehicle.

Live tracking is also available via RideCheck, which uses sensors and GPS data to detect if a trip veers off course, stops unexpectedly, or ends early. In this scenario, the Uber app messages the teen and driver to check if they are safe.

While this feature is available on standard Uber services, it has been made especially sensitive for Uber Teens, said Khaole.

Furthermore, audio recordings during Uber Teen trips are encrypted and drivers, riders, parents, and even Uber itself are therefore unable to listen to the recordings, unless an incident is reported and they must be decrypted.

Khaole said there is no difference between Uber Teen and services aimed at adults, and parents/guardians can set up spending limits on these accounts so that their children do not go over the limit.

The service is now available in all areas of the country where Uber operates.

Screenshot of Uber Teen invite page

Enhanced safety for drivers

Alongside the launch of the ride option for teens, Uber has been on a mission to enhance safety for its drivers.

Over the past eight months, Uber identified a small cohort of high-risk accounts that were forced to go through a verification process before being allowed to continue using the app, as per Engineering News.

As a result, the company can now track the person behind the account should an incident occur while they are using its services.

“The results of the pilot are positive, and we will expand this across our operations in South Africa. In future, when setting up an account, a user will be asked to verify their identity through an identity document, passport, or driver’s licence,” said Khaole.

“We want to ensure the safety of our drivers, including our female drivers who constitute about 10% of our drivers. We are looking to increase this number, but the rider verification will improve safety for all our drivers.”


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