Emergency safety features in rideshare apps

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Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018
News 12 at 11

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- Rideshare apps are more popular than ever. Robin Blankenbaker is one of the millions who uses Uber, Lyft and other rideshare apps.

As she walks down Broad Street, she knows she has a safe ride home.

“I feel safe because I know I'm being tracked," said Blankenbaker.

She’s always on the go, so she said she uses Uber and other rideshare apps like Lyft all the time.

“It’s super convenient when parking is a hassle, or you have alcohol," said Blankenbaker. "I’ve just had good experiences."

While she’s had good experiences, not everyone has. Like two women from Grovetown who just wanted a ride home after a night of drinking. Now their Uber driver, Shaunisha Brown, is accused of stabbing them.

She was booked in jail, and was charged with aggravated assault.

“I’ve always thought, 'Okay, I know I don't want to roll out of the car.'" said Blankenbaker. "So I’ve always tried to think ahead as to what I would do,"

Apps like Uber try to take the thought out of emergencies by offering a feature that calls 911 through the app, sharing your name, location, kind of car you're in and your driver's name. It connects with a service called RapidSOS that sends the information to the nearest dispatch center.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said they still can get some information even if you just call normally. They can usually track your location down within a few meters by grabbing the most recent latitude and longitude points. BUT you need to have your location services turned on for them to be able to do that. Or else they're stuck pinging the most recent cell tower your phone connected with, which often isn't very close to where you actually are.

If you're in an emergency where you can't speak on the phone, you can also text 911 in Columbia County and Richmond County. You can tell the dispatcher what the emergency is, and where you are.

The ability to track down your location depends on the kind of technology the dispatch center has in place.

Right now, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office is working on a feature that will allow you to text a picture to dispatch; things like car accidents or fires, or any other emergency situation you might see.

It works similarly to the way texting to 911 does, but sending pictures helps dispatchers figure out what resources they need to send to an accident or fire. Right now, it's still in the development phases. We did not hear back from the Richmond County 911 center to hear what technology they have in place, and what they're working on.

 Read more about safety features on  UBER