You can now text a 911 dispatcher through the Uber app anywhere in Maricopa County.
The new text to 911 feature is available to Uber drivers and passengers who don’t feel safe or in an emergency situation.
It’s an addition to its in-app emergency button where drivers and riders already have the option to call 911.
“Some of the consistent feedback we got from people has been, what do you do in a situation where you may not be able to make a phone call or a phone call will make the situation worse?” explained Andrew Hasbun, Uber spokesman and head of safety communications.
Uber said the launch of the new safety feature is not a direct response to the violent situations ride-share drivers and passengers have experienced in Phoenix.
What makes it different from texting 911 directly from your cell phone?
Two years ago, Maricopa County launched their own text to 911 program after a woman with a hearing impairment and her attorney sued the state of Arizona because a text to 911 option wasn’t available. First responders have recommended calling 911 as your primary option.
Uber is able to populate key information so you can send to dispatchers right away including car make and model, license plate, current GPS location, as well as intended destination. It also gives you the ability to describe what’s going on.
“The first question of any 911 call… what’s the location of your emergency and we answer that question right off the bat, so it saves seconds and, in an emergency, seconds count,” said Hasbun.
Hasbun said the text to 911 feature will not be available in all cities, because not all cities have text to 911 capabilities. If text to 911 is not available, Uber said the user will get a response letting them know.
He explained Phoenix is one of 30 cities where it will work. Some of the other cities to launch, according to Hasbun, are Denver, Portland, Seattle, and Boston.
“We’re always going to looking at ways to raise the bar on safety and new innovative ways and things we can do to give people peace of mind when they’re on a trip. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. There’s no one thing that’s going to make everyone feel safe and solve every problem,” said Hasbun.
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