By Michael McGough, The Sacramento Bee
Uber is bringing an improved “panic button” system to Sacramento users, giving 911 dispatchers real-time GPS and details about the driver’s vehicle, the Police Department announced as the system went live Thursday.
The partnership between the city, Uber and tech company RapidSOS will enhance features of Uber’s in-app emergency button, which can be used by both riders and drivers to call 911 during a trip.
“When you hit the red button inside the Uber app, it initiates a 911 phone call,” Uber safety spokesman Andrew Hasbun explained during a press conference at the Sacramento Police Department’s 911 dispatch center. “When that call goes through, additional data is sent automatically to the 911 center and is made available digitally for the dispatchers to use in an emergency.”
The data, relayed to dispatch by RapidSOS, includes the caller’s name and the vehicle’s make, model and license plate number.
Dispatchers see those details as well as a map with the live GPS location of the caller immediately upon receiving the 911 call through the app as displayed during a demonstration at the dispatch center.
“This takes the guessing out of making a 911 call,” Hasbun said.
Hasbun said the program was launched last May in Denver and seven other cities as the ride-share company put a renewed emphasis on safety. It has now spread to about 60 cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.
“We are the first law enforcement agency in the region to have this technology,” police Chief Daniel Hahn said Thursday.
RapidSOS spokeswoman Michelle Cahn pointed out that the infrastructure of 911 is dated and still largely relies on landline phones.
Cahn said dispatch “often has trouble locating local 911 callers” without technology that can automatically provide key location details.