Uber kicks off bike-taxi service in Bengaluru; offers 50 percent off on ride sharing this World Earth Day
Uber kicks off bike-taxi service in Bengaluru; offers 50 percent off on ride sharing this World Earth DayReuters file

Uber has drawn a lot of flak in India due to the company's practises following rape allegations against one of its drivers in New Delhi last year.

The taxi service has been facing trouble entering metro cities like Mumbai due to its lack of safety measures. In light of these issues, Uber is now making its service safer by adding new features that will grant entry into new markets. This news comes shortly after Mumbai's supposed plans to ban the ride-sharing service and it now remains to be seen whether the new safety measures will convince the government to grant permission to the company to carry out business in the city.

As part of Uber's plan to enhance safety in India, the company's ride-hailing app will integrate a panic button that will help riders notify police of any emergency and a safety net feature. The latter will allow users to share details of their trip and location with up to five people. To handle SOS requests from riders, Uber is also setting up a local team for quick response.

According to Uber, the new features will be rolled out to Indian users starting Wednesday while international users may have to wait longer. These features are specifically for Indian riders, a company spokeswoman told Business Line. 

Uber operates in over 250 cities around the world but its expansion hasn't been without challenges. In January, an Uber passenger sued the company alleging that she was raped by a driver in New Delhi. The company has been facing stiff challenges in expanding in India and is banned in some of the top metro cities like New Delhi, Hyderabad and the entire state of Karnataka.

Transport commissioner Mahesh Zagade insisted that private taxis must have a panic switch near passenger's seat but Uber differed on the idea of a physical button.

"As a technology company, Uber does not own cars nor employs drivers. We partner with independent contractors who are licensed to provide commercial transportation by the government," Uber general manager (Mumbai) Shailesh Sawlani said, Delhi Daily News reported. "The drivers are free to work with other operators too. If you enter the vehicle of a driver who works on four platforms, the car will need four buttons. In case of distress, the rider will have to pick the correct operator's panic button for help."

"The buttons, besides being prone to wear and tear, may malfunction. It is not practically feasible," he added.