Reports have emerged recently of violent attacks by Uber drivers on their clients in South Africa. But on Monday, at a meeting with Uber Eats management, drivers and the media, another side of the story emerged.
The object of the exercise was to emphasise safety for drivers, and head of operations for Uber Eats sub-Saharan Africa Charles Mhango said: “I don’t want anyone to risk their lives. There are lots of areas that are dangerous, where we can’t deliver, so we must work around that.”
All Uber Eats drivers are freelancers and must meet compliance rules.
To be onboarded by Uber Eats, each driver must have a smartphone so that the driver app can be downloaded and it is here where the safety toolkit is located. The app offers chat support for problems drivers experience as they arise.
“The product team in San Francisco works on localised issues that we report to them,” said Mhango, adding that an important aspect of the app is that with one tap of a button, a driver can share his location immediately with an Uber support team.
“South Africa has a unique landscape in terms of addresses, which are often not logically arranged, and if a driver feels unsafe, all he has to do is press his security button if he feels threatened, has been robbed or has had an accident.”
If an Uber Eats driver has an accident and is injured or attacked on a delivery trip, he is covered by insurance from AIG.
Mhango encouraged drivers not to take unnecessary risks, but to report problems immediately if they feel they are in a dangerous place or situation. “We have to collect the data to make decisions and information is our biggest tool,” he said. “We need to know what’s working and what isn’t.”
Some drivers reported that they could deliver to certain areas before 7pm, but that after nightfall they were no longer safe. “This is the sort of thing we need to know,” said Mhango. “It means we can make informed decisions about refusing to deliver to certain areas at night, or just electing to close a place altogether.”
The driver app has a particular safety feature that precludes a driver typing while driving – he must pull off to type – and with branded jackets with special reflector material, as well as subsidies on helmets, management said it is doing all it can to minimise risks for drivers. – © 2023 NewsCentral Media