Uber says 911 centers can now track location if you call through app in case of emergency

ByJason Knowles and Ann Pistone WLS logo
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
911 centers can track Uber riders through app using this feature
If an Uber driver or rider is in an emergency situation, 911 call centers can now track their location through the app using RapidSOS technology.

You've been able to call 911 through Uber for years, but now the company says the majority of Chicago area 911 centers are now able to track your location.

911 dispatchers will always ask for your address when you call, but you may not know the answer to that or other crucial details if you need emergency help in an Uber.

"You may not be able to verbalize the vehicle you're in, you probably don't know the license plate," said Madelyn Walsh, DuPage Public Safety Communications Center dispatcher.

Walsh said she and other emergency responders will automatically know those details and an exact location if riders or drivers use the new "slide to call" 911 feature in the Uber app.

"And it will show us your Uber information, so license plate, car make, model, whoever is calling, their name and phone number," she explained.

Her 911 center and others in the area recently launched the Uber 911 app feature, with the use of tech from another company called RapidSOS.

"As a passenger in a vehicle, many times we don't pay attention to where we are at. We don't see cross streets," said Jamison Peevyhouse, director of public safety at RapidSOS.

The company is integrated in the vast majority of Chicago area 911 centers. The new technology allows the dispatcher to view all of the details of the car you're riding in.

"We're in 1,800 cities across the United States, where we are using RapidSOS 911 integration," said Wade Stormer, senior manager of public safety for Uber.

Using the feature is a two step process. First, you go to the app's Safety Center and hit "911 assistance" and swipe. In the 911 call center, dispatchers can see your location in real time. And if you're in a situation where you either don't want to or can't speak to the 911 dispatcher, like if you're being taken to a location you didn't ask for and don't want to go, Stormer said you don't need to.

Rideshare driver Phillip Sanchez was carjacked in March and said the new 911 tracking option could be a benefit for drivers as well as passengers.

"If 911 already knows where you're at, it doesn't have to go through extra hoops and ask for a location, they can easily pinpoint you," he said.

RapidSOS said its technology is also being used to help find 911 callers who are not in Ubers. The feature can pinpoint people on their smartphones if their location services are turned on. It is more effective than using cell phone towers to locate a device.