Uber Adds 911 Button to Help Riders Feel Safer

iStock
iStock

Uber has rolled out a feature that it hopes will give riders some peace of mind on the way to their destinations. As The Verge reports, the new emergency button gives passengers the option to contact 911 from within the Uber app.

The feature is located in the "safety center"—a new section of the app that also contains information about insurance coverage, community guidelines, and the screening process for drivers. To make an emergency call, tap the shield icon in the bottom right corner of the screen and select "911 assistance" from the menu that pops up. The app will ask you to confirm that you wish to dial 911 to avoid any unintentional calls.

All drivers must pass a background check before joining Uber, but that hasn't done much to protect the company's reputation when it comes to safety. CNN reports that 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault or abuse in the past four years. The emergency button is part of a larger effort from the brand to regain customers' trust.

The new feature is a start, but it's not a guarantee that riders will receive the help they need if they find themselves in a threatening situation. Cell phones can only give 911 dispatchers a rough estimate of the caller's location, and if someone is calling from a moving vehicle, that makes the dispatchers' job even harder. Fortunately, in select locations, Uber is also testing a version of the feature that automatically sends the rider's location and trip details to dispatchers when a call is placed.

While most viral Uber horror stories are from the rider's perspective, inviting strangers into their cars creates a safety hazard for drivers as well. A similar emergency button will be added to the driver's side of the app following this current version.

[h/t The Verge]

Charge Your Gadgets Anywhere With This Pocket-Sized Folding Solar Panel

Solar Cru, YouTube
Solar Cru, YouTube

Portable power banks are great for charging your phone when you’re out and about all day, but even they need to be charged via an electrical outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do when you’re out hiking the Appalachian Trail or roughing it in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru—a lightweight, foldable solar panel now available on Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices just by soaking up the sunshine. Strap it to your backpack or drape it over your tent to let the solar panel’s external battery charge during the day. Then, right before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to let it charge overnight.

It's capable of charging a tablet, GPS, speaker, headphones, camera, or other small wattage devices. “A built-in intelligent chip identifies each device plugged in and automatically adjusts the energy output to provide the right amount of power,” according to the SolarCru Kickstarter page.

A single panel is good “for small charging tasks,” according to the product page, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical output. It takes roughly three hours and 45 minutes to charge a phone using a single panel, for instance, or about one hour if you’re using three panels at once. The amount of daylight time it takes to harvest enough energy for charging will depend on weather conditions, but it will still work on cloudy days, albeit more slowly.

The foldable panel weighs less than a pound and rolls up into a compact case that it can easily be tucked away in your backpack or jacket pocket. It’s also made from a scratch- and water-resistant material, so if you get rained out while camping, it won't destroy your only source of power.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $34 (less than some power banks), or a pack of five for $145. Orders are scheduled to be delivered in March.

Watch Ford's Sweaty-Butt Robot Put a Car Seat to the Test

iStock.com/gargantiopa
iStock.com/gargantiopa

Buyers tend to look at price, safety, and gas mileage when shopping for a car; a question that rarely comes up at the dealership is how well a car seat stands up to years of butt sweat. But even if it isn't a priority for car owners, the vehicle testers at Ford work to ensure the cars that leave the factory can accommodate the sweatiest passengers.

The secret to Ford's durable seats is a device called the Robutt. This video from the car company shows a Kuka robotic arm pushing a buttocks-shaped cushion into a car seat. To replicate a person sitting in the car after exercising, the dummy butt is heated to approximately human body temperate and pumped with half a liter of water. The average person produces about 0.7 to 1.5 liters of sweat in one hour of intense exercise, and people who are especially fit perspire 1.5 to 1.8 liters in the same time.

The sit test is repeated 7500 times over three days—simulating one decade of someone driving their sweaty behind home from the gym. If the surface of a car seat can make it through all that abuse without any wear and tear, the design is good enough for a Ford vehicle. Robutt-approved seats were first introduced in the 2018 Ford Fiesta and are now being built into all Ford vehicles in Europe.

You can watch the messy process play out below. Here are some more robots that, like the Robutt, were designed for oddly specific tasks.

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