Do you love Uber but feel weird about giving strangers your address? You can put your concern to rest: On Thursday, Uber announced the launch of Uber’s new cross streets safety measures, an app update that allows riders to list cross streets as destinations when they book rides, rather than specific addresses. It’s a simple change that could have a big impact by giving riders another layer of anonymity and privacy.
Uber already has measures in place to protect riders’ and drivers’ personal information — for example, when riders and drivers make contact through the app, their phone numbers are anonymized — but now the company is going a step further. Riders want “to be able to protect their information when they’re out and about Ubering, and do so in a way that gives them a lot of control and choice in the matter,” Kate Parker, Uber's Head of Trust and Safety, tells Bustle.
The company has learned from customer feedback that pick-up and drop-off locations themselves offer information about the rider that not all people want to disclose. “We’ve heard from some riders that, in certain scenarios, they don’t actually always want to share the exact address of where they’re going,” Parker explains.
The feedback presented Uber with a challenge: “If you are moving people out in the real world, … how do you enable a system that works really well and efficiently, but that does so in a way where riders have control over the information they’re sharing about their destination?” Parker asks. In other words, as she writes in a blogpost, “How do we get people from A to B without sharing what A or B might be?”
The answer? Cross streets.
With the cross streets update, riders can simply enter in the names of two intersecting streets as their pick-up or destination locations, without giving a numbered address. This offers a number of perks: For one, it’s simply easier for folks who are out and about and need a pick up, but don’t know the exact address of their location. Second, there’s more privacy: your driver doesn’t need to know potentially sensitive information, like what kind of doctor you’re seeing. And finally, you’re not compromising your safety by giving your home address to someone you’ve only just met.
You can see how the cross streets feature works in the GIF above. When you enter in your pick-up or drop-off location, simply type in “[Street name] & [Street name].” If you have an exact address, but not the cross street names, you can also type in the numbered address and then move the pin on the map to the cross street where you’d like to be picked up. If there’s any confusion, you can contact your driver via the Uber app.
The cross streets update is the latest addition to a larger system Uber has enacted to ensure riders and drivers’ privacy and safety. “Safety is deeply important to us, and we've built safety into the app,” Parker tells Bustle. For example, riders and drivers are required to abide by Uber Community Guidelines, and they are able to report any problems they encounter without having their identity disclosed. Riders receive their driver's license plate number, photo, and name in advance to ensure that they get in the right car. And, as a rider, you also have the option of tapping “Share status” in the app once you get in the car, which will notify a friend, partner, or family member that you’re taking an Uber, give them your driver’s info, and even allow them to track your progress.
The cross streets update will be rolling out to every U.S. city in the next few weeks. Be sure to keep your Uber app updated, and checkout Uber’s safety tips for riders. (The biggest one? Keep your Uber interactions inside the Uber app — and never get in a car with someone who isn't a driver you requested via the app!)