We care a lot about feedback from both riders and drivers, especially when it comes to safety.  It’s why we insist that people in the driver’s seat rate their passengers after each ride, and vice versa.  If the rating is low, we ask why.  It might be that a driver is unhappy about an unruly rider.  Or a rider is worried that her driver was going too fast.  Either way, we need to check what actually happened.  Mostly it’s about talking to both sides.  But increasingly technology can help get to the truth.

That’s why we’ve been running a pilot program to verify feedback using smartphone technology. Gyrometers in phones can measure small movements, while GPS and accelerometers show how often a vehicle starts and stops, as well as its overall speed.  If a rider complains that a driver accelerated too fast and broke too hard, we can review that trip using data. If the feedback is accurate, then we can get in touch with the driver. And if it’s not, we could use the information to make sure a driver’s rating isn’t affected.

Over time, we hope to use technology to improve safety proactively.  For example, if gyrometer data shows that drivers are constantly moving their phones around, we can offer them mounts to fix the problem.  Or we could use technology to determine that the average South Florida Uber driver goes 50MPH and takes 50 minutes to drive from Miami to Fort Lauderdale. For drivers who go much faster on that stretch, we can ask them to curb their enthusiasm.

We all drive too fast from time to time.  Speeding is the root cause of many accidents.  In 2012 speeding was responsible for nearly one in three fatal accidents in the U.S., causing over 10,000 deaths that year alone.  And distracted driving is just as big a problem.  In 2013, over 3,000 people were killed in car crashes that involved distracted drivers.  Texting or talking on the phone triples your chances of getting into an accident.  

Road safety is a critically important issue.  It’s why Uber is always on the lookout for new ways—from the simple to the sophisticated—to do better.  If you use the Uber app in Charlotte, North Carolina you might find a Bop It toy in the back of your driver’s car.  Folks there have found it’s a great way to keep drunk riders entertained so they don’t distract their driver.  And in Seattle, drivers utilize color-coded lights to help riders find their cars more easily at night.  New safety solutions are always in the works, so keep your eyes out for the next new program in your city.