Why the ‘panic’ button is not an #Uber app feature for Americans?

Sanjay Puri Blog on "Panic button on Uber app in India & the 911 in the US."

Panic button on Uber app in India & the 911 in the US?: Do you think Americans need a panic button?

Uber cabs are probably safer than  regular taxis. In the US, the recent shooting rampage (in Michigan) by an Uber driver has opened up different questions about a riders’ safety during a cab ride. Should there be an easy way to raise an alarm when an Uber ride goes wrong? In the US, you have no  panic button  available on the Uber app like in India because Americans can dial 911.

The ‘panic button” got introduced in India last year after a lot of media uproar about alleged charges of alleged sexual assault by an Uber cab driver.  Introducing additional safety measures and stringent driver checks along with an in-app emergency (panic) button is what Uber probably had to resort to, for saving business in India. Uber says it has come up with the ‘panic button’ feature for India simply because the emergency response infrastructure in India is not as strong as in America. The Uber app in India has a ‘one-click’ button for riders to trigger an alarm for the company’s in-house team.  A rider can pre-feed emergency contacts and it allows monitoring by GPS in real-time.

Considering the number of violent cab ride incidents that take place globally, and in the US recently (the recent shooting rampage in Kalamazoo, Michigan by an Uber driver), I wonder if Uber management should seriously consider initiating a ‘panic button’ in the US.

For Americans, a panic button can come in handy in case 911 is not reachable or a rider is unable to think of an appropriate response due to a panicky situation.  An emergency tab on the app will help riders connect with the help of an automated response system connecting them to emergency contacts and passing on information about their route and driver etc.  to expedite the process.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me.

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Why ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ – India’s popular hospitality norm leaves out foreign tourist?

Do you think it is fair to charge foreigners differently? Most tourist visiting India find this differential pricing unfair!

Do you think it is fair to charge foreigners differently? Most tourist visiting India find this differential pricing unfair!

Is it so that the ‘India’ Indians travel in happens to be different from the country that foreigners visit? It must be so. The differential pricing for foreigners and Indians in popular tourist places like Monuments (Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar etc.), Museums, Temples, World Heritage sites of importance (named by ASI) and other places of national interest for foreign tourist seem to miss the whole point by charging foreigners differently.

For a country that believes in the age-old adage of ‘Guest is God’, the idea of paying a higher ticket fare compared to locals can make one feel like an unwelcome guest. Tourism has been an important sector for Indian economy. It is equally important to attract tourist from different parts of the world. I often find that some of my foreigner friends visiting India dislike paying highly (and differently) as they feel that they are being treated unfairly when it comes to paying for ticket fares at popular tourist sites in the country.

Foreign Visitors Speaking IndiaI am not sure how this helps the Indian government that is keen on welcoming more tourist and boosting up the tourism sector in the country.

In the US, no matter which nationality you belong to, there is no difference in entry fees to places of national interest for a tourist. I feel that a discrimination of this sort (in India) not only affects the number of foreigners visiting India, but it also reflects badly upon the country’s image as a warm and welcoming nation that believes in the basics of equality propagated by its leaders. India has been a popular destination for world tourist as the travel costs, food and hotels are economical in comparison to tourist visiting countries like France, UK and the US.

India needs to work out a uniform fee structure at tourists’ places of interest that are at par with ticket fare for Indians (locals). Some Indians will argue that the government is not overcharging tourist as the visiting tourists’ currency (especially coming from the West) happens to be strong in India, but then will you change the fare when the Indian Rupee grows stronger? The fact remains that a difference in the ticket fare ends up reflecting upon the country badly and as being unfair in its treatment to foreigners.

What do you think? Share your thoughts with me.

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Are connected cars the safest road trip to the future?

Connected  Car SafetyAdding connectivity, intelligence and a level of awareness to vehicles is helping in defining an entirely new landscape for communication, convenience, infotainment and safety for a landscape of cars in the US. For readers wondering what exactly are connected cars—a connected car is a car that is equipped with Internet access, and normally also comes with a wireless local area network.

I have written about connected cars and its potential in India (a country with high road accident rate of 16 people dying/minute in road accidents), but the rapidly advancing connected car ecosystem is currently on the rise and it all is likely to become an end-to-end solution for the automotive industry. Connected car technology looks like a part of evolving customer needs for they sure were ‘the’ star stuff this CES, held up at LA (in January 2016). And all for the right reasons! The grounds kept buzzing with smartphone-enabled dashboards, latest advances in driverless vehicles and so on.

There have been partnerships between car makers and tech-brands and some catching news like GM’s $500m investment in car-sharing service Lyft, which is likely to see the two companies work in sync for development of driverless vehicles. Microsoft has also partnered with connected product maker Harman to integrate key elements of Microsoft Office 365 into the in-car ‘infotainment’ systems, while Ford linked up a deal for US telecoms giant AT&T to ladder up its new Sync Connect system.

The idea of enhancing productivity while on the wheel has always crossed human minds, but driverless cars will make it possible while making us enjoy greater convenience, safety and reliability.

Even though brands have been wooing customers with grand presentations on new technology in the recently held CES, I see some hurdles in making driverless cars a reality. For one, wireless infrastructure has not progressed yet to facilitate it, be it the US or India. At the same time, car makers await legislation, which is likely to affect brands even as they need to wait for governments around the globe to support it with safety norms and insurance laws.

Car-sharing apps and financial scoops in the automotives sector is starting to shift focus from car owners to car users, and the shift has given an edge to companies like Google and Apple to make their own self-driving cars even as they realize the business prospects of connected cars running off their own operating systems.

Personally, I feel that connected cars will significantly improve road safety (especially in countries like India) and also benefit customers in different ways. With advanced features in telematics, accident breakdown notifications and real-time fault diagnosis, it is likely to increase a driver’s efficiency and response time.

What do you think? Is India ready for connected cars? Share your thoughts with me.

Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.

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India celebrates its 67th Republic Day!

India celebrated its 67th Republic day on 26th January in full glory of colors. In the US, Indian Americans rejoiced the unfurling of tricolour at the Indian Embassy in the American capital. Republic Day celebrations were marked in several Indian diplomatic missions in New York, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta and San Francisco and the Permanent Mission of India to the UN.

  • 67th Republic Day-2016
    Getting the Indian flag painted faces is a common sight on the eve of Republic day

Which is your favorite R-day picture? Share it with me.

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