(CBS News) – Uber will let passengers and drivers record audio of their rides in an attempt to improve the ride-hail company’s safety record.
The feature will first be tested in cities in Brazil and Mexico in December. Uber hopes to eventually launch the technology in other markets including the U.S., although the company said it has no timeline for any expansion.
The feature will allow customers to opt into recording all trips or select trips. Neither riders nor drivers can listen to the recordings, which will be encrypted by Uber to head off privacy concerns. Users can share the recording with Uber after a trip if they want to report a problem.
Uber has struggled with safety issues and faced accusations that some of its drivers have assaulted and raped passengers. In September, more than a dozen women sued competitor Lyft alleging it mishandled reports of sexual assault. Last month, Uber launched a 911 safety feature to send the vehicle description, license plate, current location and destination.
The San Francisco-based company also has been hit with litigation alleging that its hiring process and background checks are inadequate. Uber does not conduct fingerprint-based background checks, for instance, which traditional taxi companies generally perform before hiring drivers.
Uber drivers also have been victims of attacks. In both Brazil and Mexico, the company allows riders to pay with cash, which increases the risk of incidents. In Brazil, drivers have been robbed and have suffered violent and even fatal attacks while using the Uber platform, the company said in a federal filing.
Uber told CBS This Morning in September that drivers accused of sexual misconduct are immediately removed from the platform, but did not disclose how often the company receives such reports. Uber plans to release a safety report this year that provides data on sexual assaults and other safety-related incidents.
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