Lyft’s “friendly” image has been tarnished lately, with safety issues plaguing ride-hailing app users.

To tackle the problems on the road for passengers, Lyft announced three new safety features Tuesday, including a 911 button for riders (and drivers) in the app. Calls for these types of tools have been growing louder in recent months as more incidents pile up and Lyft’s outdated safety system is revealed.

The emergency service button now comes up in both the rider and driver apps starting Tuesday with information about current location and vehicle info to tell emergency dispatchers information in a necessary situation. 

Other additions to Lyft’s safety line-up include what it’s calling “Smart Trip Check-In.” The service will flag rides with long delays or other unusual behaviors. A Lyft check-in box will pop up asking if everything’s OK. You can follow up from there if something is wrong, or carry on. 

A final component is centered more around drivers. This fall, all Lyft drivers will have to take a community safety education course through anti-sexual violence group RAINN. For riders, they must agree to Lyft community guidelines. Violators face removal or a community safety training.

Lyft now checks in.
Lyft now checks in.

The problem is, this has taken too long. Uber re-prioritized safety throughout 2018 again and again with the 911 button, its own RideCheck feature where it alerted riders and drivers about suspected crashes or unusual rides, and other safety policy changes. Lyft lagged behind with its baseline policies and an inaccessible critical response hotline you had to look up to call for 24-hour help.

Riders who did experience harassment, assault, and other abuse claim sub-par responses from the ride-hailing company. One woman who said she was harassed earlier this year said she was initially offered Lyft credit. A lawsuit filed earlier this month on behalf of 14 women who were reportedly sexually abused by drivers alleges Lyft has a problem with dealing with bad drivers.

Lyft’s reticence to add these features perversely shows its optimism. Adding community safety training and easy access to 911 acknowledges the dark side of ride-hailing — something Lyft is keenly aware of, but has been determined to believe didn’t broadly affect its community. No longer. Too many bad situations have boiled over.

Luckily this isn’t a “too little, too late” situation, but more “better late than never.” These features will improve ride safety going forward, much like we’ve seen on the Uber app.


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