NEW DELHI :
Safety of passengers, especially women, has been a controversial issue for ride-hailing applications. Uber's global chief product officer Manik Gupta said that the company is serious about tackling safety related issues, and will continue to improve safety features on its application to boost customer confidence. Uber is also open to tying up with new players in electric mobility space, but currently has no fresh plans for an independent play in the segment, Gupta told Mint in an interview. Edited excerpts:
As far as safety is concerned, cab aggregators have been in focus for safety related issues. While you have launched driver verification and integration with 911 (emergency helpline) in the US, similar features have not been launched in India. So, what are your plans to improve safety of Uber riders and drivers in India?
Safety is a huge priority. We have invested more in safety from a tech perspective than any other player out there, including in India. We have things like the SOS button, safety centre, and, even though we don’t have something similar to 911 integration, we allow users to contact their local police in any city we operate in. You can also share your trip with your loved ones to let them know where you are at any point of time.
On the drivers’ side we have launched many safety features in Latin America, in India as well. Sometimes drivers can also face safety incidents.
About a month ago, we launched a lot of new features, primarily in the US to start with, things like accident detection. Also, if we see that the car is deviating from the route or it has stopped for an extended period of time, then again we will call the driver and the rider. We have only launched this feature in the US, and not overseas, but at some point we will absolutely bring it to India.
In terms of investment, we are probably way ahead of a lot of players around.
On the driver side, we have continued to invest on driver checks. On verification of the driver of the vehicle, they are required to sign in with their photo each time they sign in to the platform. We will continue to bring a lot of these features to India because it is a really big priority. India is a really big market for us because 12% of all our trips on a global basis are done in India. We are here to stay for the long term.
As far as electric vehicles are concerned, the government was aggressively pushing for electric mobility, but due to the slowdown, it seems the push is less aggressive. What role will Uber play in electric mobility now?
We don’t have anything to announce what is our play for electric vehicles right now. It is a very fast evolving space and I think there are many players in the market who are taking a crack at it. As far as we are concerned, we really think of integrating the best option that is out there. If there is anybody who has lots of good electric vehicles and are ready to onboard them and provide the charging infrastructure, we would love to partner with them.
We are doing a lot of research in that space, but that’s more in the micromobility space. In the US and a lot of developed markets, we have electric bikes and scooters and we have a brand called Jump. We are investing heavily on micro mobility options, on what is the best hardware that we can build. We are thinking of how to build the best swappable batteries for scooters and bikes.
You launched ‘Uber Transit’ in Delhi today. By when will you expand the service to all users in Delhi and what sort of investments are you looking at? Also, will you be expanding it to other cities in India?
We launched public transport today in the Uber app. It will not be available to everybody today but we will progressively roll it out, like in any software product launch. It will also go to all the 210 stations and beyond over a period of time.
For the rest of India, we don’t have anything to announce right now. Delhi is the ninth city globally and first in Asia. Based on the response, we will of course love to partner with many other transport agencies around the world, including in India.
From an investment standpoint, we have a partnership with a company called MoovIt, and that company is providing us with a lot of data and information that we can show in the Uber app.
Earlier, Uber faced a lot of problems on the regulatory side. Now it seems the tables have turned and you are partnering with public transport services like Delhi Metro. Going forward, will you be launching more services on the public transport platform?
It is really important for us to be very good citizens in whichever city we operate in and part of it is to work with regulators. Delhi Metro is a viable option for a lot of users in Delhi, and we can be a part of that. As long as we have such partnerships, we will continue to push forward.