News & Events, Tech

Uber is testing an audio recording feature

Safety first.

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Dec 30, 2021

Uber is currently testing a new safety feature that allows both drivers and passengers to record interactions during trips. Customers can sign up for the audio recording service now. It is intended to prevent safety issues and help investigate complaints when they occur.


Where is it happening?

Uber is testing the feature in Kansas City, Missouri, Louisville, Kentucky, and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. The feature has been used in some capacity throughout Latin America since 2019. The firm said in 2019 that it had received over 3,000 reports of sexual assault in the previous year. There were about equal numbers of allegations leveled at both drivers and passengers.


Currently, the business is only testing the technology in states where recording consent is only required from one side. Both parties must consent in some states, but not in Kentucky and Missouri. This means that riders can activate the recording feature at any time without the knowledge of the driver. Similarly, a driver might use the feature indefinitely without informing each and every passenger.


How it works

The new audio tool operates as follows: passengers who become uneasy at any point during a drive can start recording the journey with their Uber app. Drivers can also record all or part of a journey. The recordings are set to be encrypted and stored on the user’s device for up to 15 days.


Officials with the company say they won’t have access to the recordings unless a driver or passenger files an incident report, and neither party will be able to listen to them. During criminal investigations, those recordings could be handed over to police enforcement. The audio recording feature is now in use in 14 countries, with good results.


According to Neil Chopra, senior product manager of Uber’s safety team, the feature will only take up a small amount of space on users’ phones. A one-hour audio recording takes up around 10 megabytes of storage. Users can delete recordings from their phones at any moment, even if they can’t hear them. The trial program’s start date has yet to be disclosed by Uber.


Customers who do not wish to be filmed can cancel their trip, according to Uber. Nothing currently prevents drivers and riders from recording video or audio on their phones. In fact, if local laws allow it, Uber already permits drivers to record trips with dash cams. However, the firm claims that this internal system will aid in the investigation of complaints, which frequently result in conflicting tales from both the driver and the passenger. Uber can check the audio’s validity and assure that neither party interfered with it thanks to the internal recorder.


The recordings are meant to be kept primarily private — neither drivers nor passengers are allowed to listen to or post them on the internet. Uber also claims that it will only retrieve audio once a complaint has been filed. Otherwise, the recordings will be automatically deleted after 15 days.


In other related news, Uber Pool could be coming back.


Photo via Uber