After being widely criticised for lack of security of its commuters following the Kalamazoo (Michigan) shooting incident, Uber's secret emergency phone line came to light this week. The taxi-hailing platform confirmed Wednesday that it has been testing a critical safety response line in the U.S. since October, but hasn't publicly announced the existence of the 800 helpline to its drivers or riders.
"We are always looking for ways to improve communication with riders and drivers. In select U.S. cities, we have a pilot program where riders and drivers can call an Uber support representative directly for assistance with an urgent situation after a trip," Uber issued a statement regarding its emergency hotline service, according to Inc.
Uber told Inc. that its emergency response number is available in 22 cities across the country. The number – 800-353-8237 (UBER) – connects the caller to one of Uber's two call centers in Chicago or Phoenix, where a rider or a driver can report urgent problems. However, in case of emergency, Uber still recommends 911.
"In the United States, 911 is the panic button and it's the panic button that we want people to use," Uber's Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan said, according to Business Insider. "It's the panic button that law enforcement wants people to use. And we don't want to try and replace that."
Uber sees its helpline number to assist riders and drivers with issues like lost item or any impeding threat. The 800 hotline is merely an extension of the regular email lines, which have been the only point of contact for riders and drivers to connect with Uber for urgent matters that need immediate attention.
Quartz originally unearthed the emergency number from Uber's app in February, but it has only been confirmed now. But the taxi aggregator confirmed to Business Insider that Kalamazoo was not among the test cities where the emergency hotline would work.
The company did not show any sign of expanding its critical helpline to other cities or countries where it is actively available. International Business Times, India, has reached out to the company for a comment.