(Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Uber to share rider tracking data with SF in 911 emergencies

The data will also be used to dispatch San Francisco Police Department officers.

Uber will begin providing San Francisco 911 dispatchers with rider location data in emergencies, the company announced today.

The multi-billion dollar ride-hail giant will partner with the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management and emergency communications company RapidSOS. The data will also be used to dispatch San Francisco Police Department officers.

It’s a unique partnership in The City, particularly as city transportation agencies work with state government to increase regulations for the ride-hail industry in the name of rider safety, and where the late Mayor Ed Lee once famously drew a line in the sand over automated vehicles.

But Monday’s announcement from city officials and the two companies represents rare local cooperation with the sometimes controversial tech mobility company.

The data sharing commitment is straightforward: When an Uber passenger finds themselves in an emergency, they can hit an “emergency button” in the Uber app, which will send usually-shielded data to the RapidSOS service. That includes Uber driver and rider information, vehicle description, license plate, current location and direction of travel.

The button also calls 911 and provides the information to dispatchers.

“This feature is available in more than 60 cities, and we are proud to add San Francisco, our home, to the growing list of cities using this technology,” said Krishnaja Gutta, Uber Product Safety Manager. “Every second counts in an emergency, and we want to make sure Uber users have important information to get help quickly if faced with an emergency situation.”

That’s a major boon to finding an Uber rider, emergency officials said, in a statement. Cell phone data access is limited and can sometimes leave ambulances searching an eight-block radius for a caller.

RapidSOS’s technology reduces some of that guesswork, officials said, by providing more cell location data to 911 dispatchers.

“The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management is always seeking ways to increase location accuracy from cell phone callers,” said Mary Ellen Carroll, executive director of the Department of Emergency Management, in a statement. “This new technology with enhanced location services and travel information will help save lives.”

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