Uber Adds 911 Button to Help Riders Feel Safer

iStock
iStock

Uber has rolled out a feature that it hopes will give riders some peace of mind on the way to their destinations. As The Verge reports, the new emergency button gives passengers the option to contact 911 from within the Uber app.

The feature is located in the "safety center"—a new section of the app that also contains information about insurance coverage, community guidelines, and the screening process for drivers. To make an emergency call, tap the shield icon in the bottom right corner of the screen and select "911 assistance" from the menu that pops up. The app will ask you to confirm that you wish to dial 911 to avoid any unintentional calls.

All drivers must pass a background check before joining Uber, but that hasn't done much to protect the company's reputation when it comes to safety. CNN reports that 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault or abuse in the past four years. The emergency button is part of a larger effort from the brand to regain customers' trust.

The new feature is a start, but it's not a guarantee that riders will receive the help they need if they find themselves in a threatening situation. Cell phones can only give 911 dispatchers a rough estimate of the caller's location, and if someone is calling from a moving vehicle, that makes the dispatchers' job even harder. Fortunately, in select locations, Uber is also testing a version of the feature that automatically sends the rider's location and trip details to dispatchers when a call is placed.

While most viral Uber horror stories are from the rider's perspective, inviting strangers into their cars creates a safety hazard for drivers as well. A similar emergency button will be added to the driver's side of the app following this current version.

[h/t The Verge]

Mountable Laserlight Projector Creates a Personal Bike Lane for Cyclists

Beryl, Kickstarter
Beryl, Kickstarter

All the blinking lights and reflectors in the world aren't enough to prevent your bike from disappearing into a truck's blind spot. But what if you could extend the length of your bike by an 20 extra feet with the click of a button? That's the concept behind the Laserlight Core, a product currently raising funds on Kickstarter, Fast Company reports.

Laserlight resembles a small flashlight, and it attaches easily to the front of your handlebars. When biking, you can switch it on to project a laser image of a green bike symbol onto the street several yards in front of you. If the driver of a van, truck, or bus can't see your actual bike in their mirror, the idea is that the light will make them aware of your presence. The projection is about the width of a bike lane, so it may also encourage drivers to give cyclists more road space than they would have otherwise. According to an independent study on the light from Transport for London, bikers with Laserlight are about 97 percent visible at night to drivers in vans (compared to 65 visibility with a standard LED light).

Emily Brooke came up up with the concept seven years ago as a design student at England's University of Brighton. After a frighteningly close encounter with a van while biking, she wondered if she could invent a way to get the attention of drivers even when she was stuck squarely in their blind spots.

Her product, originally dubbed Blaze, launched on Kickstarter in 2012. The campaign was a success, and now she's returning to the crowdfunding platform with a new-and-improved version of the item. Laserlight Core is easier to mount than its predecessor and it also projects a clearer image. You can reserve yours with a pledge of $75 or more with shipping estimated for December of this year. (It makes a great gift for the dedicated cyclist in your life, too.)

[h/t Fast Company]

Website Lets You Report Individuals Affected by Hurricane Michael to Search-and-Rescue Teams

Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images
Brendan Smialowski, AFP/Getty Images

When Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida as a Category 4 hurricane on October 10, it became the strongest storm to hit the continental U.S. since 1992. Homes from Florida to Virginia have since been leveled and at least 11 people have died. With internet and phone lines down across the disaster zone, many people are desperate to know if their loved ones are safe—now there's an online tool that can help them.

If you're having trouble getting in touch with someone who was in the hurricane's path, you can report them through a new website set up by the Florida National Guard, First Coast News reports. The site asks for the person's name, gender, age, and address, as well as any life-threatening issues they may be facing, such as low oxygen or medication supplies. After you submit their information, the State Emergency Operations Center forwards it to the relevant local agency doing recovery work.

Michael moved back over the Atlantic as a post-tropical storm Friday morning following its rampage through the southeastern U.S. More than 1000 search-and-rescue workers have already been deployed in Florida alone, and the death toll is expected to rise as clean-up efforts continue across the region.

[h/t First Coast News]

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