Police: 911 Feature Being Tested by Uber Is Game Changer

If you ride with Uber, there is a new safety feature first responders in Cambridge, Massachusetts, are calling a game changer. It allows users to call for help without ever leaving the app and gives dispatchers access to critical information in case of an emergency.

Cambridge is the second city in the state, after Springfield, to utilize the feature called "911 assistance." It is backed by the rideshare company and can be found in Uber's new "Safety Toolkit." All users have to do is tap the safety icon and swipe.

"We can get the passenger's name, if you're not able to tell us, the license plate of the vehicle and the make and model of the car," said Christina Giacobbe, director of Cambridge Emergency Communications. "From there, we can also run the plate to see who the vehicle is registered to."

Giacobbe said if the user is unable to speak, they can still process it as a silent call and pinpoint where to send resources.

"You don't have to say a word," Giacobbe said.

NBC10 Boston put the technology to the test Friday, and within seconds, the ride appeared on the screen in the dispatch center. They were able to get all the information from the Uber application and see the location update every 30 seconds.

"All of that information is vital if someone is in danger, said Elizabeth Belmonte, a training supervisor for Cambridge Emergency Communications. "This way, we can get to them immediately."

Belmonte said the feature is a huge improvement over the sometimes outdated location information they normally have to rely on. Depending on cell coverage, it can show a large distance and delay response.

With Uber, they can nail it down to the exact address or intersection.

"Before, it was kind of looking for a needle in a haystack," Belmonte said. "With this, we have a precise location. We know there's a car involved and it makes our job a lot easier."

Uber is testing the new feature in several markets and plans to roll it out in more cities in the future.

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