'What's my name?'

UofSC partners with Uber on ridesharing safety

The University of South Carolina is partnering with Uber to launch a national effort to help students learn how to safely use ridesharing services. The Campus Safety Initiative also would set a dedicated pickup zone for riders in Five Points.

The initiative was announced Thursday (April 18) on the university campus by President Harris Pastides and Andrew Macdonald, Uber vice president of operations and global business development. It was inspired by the university and its students following the death of Samantha Josephson, a senior who was killed in March after getting into a car in Five Points that she mistakenly thought was her Uber ride.  The man charged with kidnapping and murder in the case was not affiliated with Uber, but her death has raised awareness of safety concerns when young people use ride-hailing services.

“I am pleased to partner with Uber on a new Campus Safety Initiative along with other important advances. By promoting essential safety tips such as ‘Check Your Ride’ and the university’s ‘What’s My Name?’ campaign, I truly believe we can help ensure ridesharing is safe for all students,” Pastides said.

As part of the initiative, the university, the Columbia Police Department and Uber will direct riders through the Uber app to a dedicated pickup zone in Five Points where they can meet the driver. Law enforcement officers will be stationed in the well-lit area to help riders and drivers connect safely and easily. Uber expects to partner with other universities around the country on similar zones in the coming months.

Also being piloted at the University of South Carolina is a rides voucher program being developed by Uber to provide discounted services for students at times when other transportation options are limited or not available.

Following Josephson’s death, Pastides asked South Carolina students to pledge never to use a ride-hailing service without making sure the license plate, make, model and color of the vehicle match what is in the app, and that the driver matches the photo and name in the app. He also implored students to ask the driver, “What’s my name?” before getting into the vehicle, since a legitimate ride-hailing service driver will know the name of the person who has requested the ride.

“Asking ‘What’s my name?’ must become as automatic for you as putting on a seat belt in your own vehicle,” Pastides wrote in a letter to students earlier this month. Uber has officially adopted a version of the president’s “What’s My Name?” platform as one of the company’s 10 safety tips.

Uber also will add a new push notification system to its app that will remind riders of the Check Your Ride steps just before their car arrives. The steps alert riders of the ways to make sure they are getting into the right car with the right driver. The push notification alert went live in Columbia on Thursday and will roll out nationwide in the upcoming days.

Uber will build public awareness by emailing every rider in the country with Check Your Ride steps, launching a social media campaign and placing ads in college newspapers across the country to educate students about these steps. Uber is teaming up with the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators to invest $100,000 in a partnership to educate college students about safety and Check Your Ride tips.

Asking, 'What's my name?' must become as automatic as putting on a seat belt in your own vehicle.

President Harris Pastides

Uber will work with law enforcement, entertainment districts and NO MORE to expand #DontStandBy, its bystander intervention partnership, to three new cities this month and spread the message across college campuses nationwide during the back-to-school season. Launched in 2018, the #DontStandBy campaign is designed to empower the nightlife community — patrons, bar staff and rideshare drivers — to look out for each other and help prevent gender-based violence before it happens.

“Our hearts continue to be with the Josephson family and the entire University of South Carolina. I know the loss you feel is immense. I want to let you know that all of you are making an impact. We have heard you,” Macdonald told the audience at the university’s Russell House theater.

Macdonald said the Campus Safety Initiative “aims to build public awareness of checking your ride and will educate students and the entire rider community on rideshare safety. Our goal is to make checking your ride before you get in the car synonymous with using Uber."

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