The South Carolina House of Representatives passed the Samantha Josephson Ridesharing Safety Act on April 9 requiring drivers from ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, to display illuminated signs in their vehicles. The bill is now up for approval by the South Carolina Senate.
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It's not the first time that fake Uber drivers have become an issue. Three women in Los Angeles have filed a lawsuit against the company alleging they were sexually assaulted by men posing as Uber drivers outside bars and nightclubs, leading to questions over whether the company has done enough to warn riders. Uber's response to Josephson's death has been to create a new alert system that will begin rolling out in South Carolina on Thursday, and then across the rest of its user base in the coming days.
When you first open the app, a banner at the bottom says "check your ride every time. A third notification will then appear before the driver arrives — this one a push alert — again reminding the rider to check and make sure it's the correct ride.
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The company says it also will be working with universities nationwide to develop dedicated pick-up zones on and off campus, and a ride voucher program to provide subsidized rides for students at times when other ways home are limited or unavailable. Kelly Nantel, vice president of communications and advocacy at the National Safety Council, said she supports the new measures. I think these are steps that move this industry in the right direction.
West acknowledged that people sometimes use the app while drunk. He said the company factored that in while devising the new features. But even with all of the new alerts, West noted, it's essential for riders to ask drivers a specific question before hopping into their cars. In the interview, West was pressed on whether Uber will take steps to make its vehicles more clearly stand out, in the way New York City cabs only come in certain colors and have medallions. Uber is unveiling the new safety features at the same time as it prepares to go public.
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West acknowledged that the company is working toward an initial public offering, and said Uber is launching the new alert system for reasons that go beyond its bottom line. But is it also the right thing to do?
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