Bolt boosts e-hailing safety with passenger SOS button

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 24 Nov 2020

E-hailing firm Bolt has introduced an emergency response button for passengers, to enable its riders to easily connect to a 24/7 service, consisting of private armed response teams, private emergency medical services and roadside assistance, if they are involved in any emergency while on a Bolt ride.

The SOS button, located within the Bolt app’s Safety Toolkit, forms part of the ride-hailing firm’s safety features. The Bolt drivers have since 2018 had their emergency button, added to the driver application. The service is enabled through an expansion of Bolt’s partnership with national safety platform Namola.

Available country-wide, the system shares smartphone GPS co-ordinates with the South African Police Service, so that police or emergency services can be dispatched to the user's location without a phone call.

The ride-hailing firm operates in more than 35 towns and cities across SA.

“If a Bolt passenger feels unsafe, or if they are involved in an accident or any other emergency incident while on a ride, they can activate the Namola-linked SOS button in the Safety Toolkit on their Bolt app,” says Gareth Taylor, country manager for Bolt in South Africa.

“Namola guarantees a call-back within 90 seconds. They establish the nature of the incident, send the appropriate response services to the passenger’s location immediately, and help passengers stay calm and safe while they wait for assistance to arrive.”

The integration between Bolt and Namola’s technology platforms makes it possible for the emergency response teams to quickly ascertain the passenger’s identity, location, contact information, the make, model and licence plate of the car, as well as their driver’s details.

The activation of the SOS button also automatically alerts the Bolt High Priority response team about any incidents. They can then liaise with the South African Police Service after the incident to provide them with all the necessary data and information needed to pursue their investigations.

“This technology integration saves time, and enables response teams to reach passengers’ locations faster, because faster responses save lives,” says Taylor.

According to Bolt, the passenger SOS button is just one of several measures the e-hailing service has introduced to make passengers feel safer while they are on rides hailed through the platform.

Other safety measures include sharing all of the driver and car details with the passenger before the driver arrives, so that passengers can verify the driver’s identity before they get into a car, and have the ability to share trip details with a trusted friend or family member, so that the journey can be observed by a third-party.

In September, the Bolt drivers held a nationwide protest, citing exploitation and safety issues as one of their key areas of concern.

One of the drivers told ITWeb the main worry was that, although there is an emergency SOS button for drivers on the app, it is not assigned to any security company – putting their lives at risk.

The protest came several weeks after a Bolt driver was killed by criminals and another was hijacked, and numerous other robbery incidents which have been experienced by drivers.

Responding to ITWeb at the time, Taylor said the company is aware of the drivers’ concerns and theirs and passenger safety is a key concern.

“Safety is an ongoing focus for everyone in the transportation sector in South Africa and it’s our responsibility to continue to invest heavily in keeping our passengers and drivers safe while they are utilising our platform,” adds Taylor.