KUALA LUMPUR: All e-hailing operators in Malaysia will soon be required to install a panic or SOS button on their apps, the Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) said.
This comes after a string of incidents involving passengers using Uber, a popular e-hailing app here, with three reported cases over the past two weeks.
In the latest case, a Vietnamese woman claimed she was molested by an Uber driver on Tuesday. The next day, the woman's husband and nine people allegedly beat up the driver.
"We had a meeting with senior Malaysian Uber officials, and impressed upon them the gravity of the situation.
"For a start, Uber has to put in as soon as expeditiously possible the SOS button, which will be linked to law enforcement," said SPAD chief executive officer Mohd Azharuddin Mat Sah at his office here Thursday.
No firm timeline has been set, but it is understood that Uber already has a similar SOS button installed for its India operations.
"We have also written to Grab, and they too will be required to put this feature into their app.
"We understand this needs time, and coordination," said Mohd Azharuddin, who acknowledged that the commission has yet to hold talks with police on the matter.
Another significant development is requiring all e-hailing operators to provide their drivers' data to SPAD this month, even as the Government is moving to regulate e-hailing operators by amending the Land Public Transport Act 2010 in Parliament in July.
"They are required to submit such data to us beginning June 16, ahead of the new regulatory requirements expected when the Act is amended," said Mohd Azharuddin.
Currently, e-hailing operators use their own way of screening drivers, but SPAD will use the drivers' database to do its own screening by checking with various law enforcement agencies.
"We are being proactive here. We will also be speaking with Grab over this new requirement," said Mohd Azharuddin, adding that a slew of measures are in place to regulate e-hailing when the Act is passed.
These include the power to impound cars used for any unsavoury activities, as well as the ability to bar an offender from driving for any e-hailing company.
Aspiring e-hailing drivers will also have to undergo psychometric testing in order to determine their "personal operating styles" as a means of assessing a candidate's suitability for the service industry.
In addition to this, e-hailing companies will also face financial penalties for failing to meet performance standards, as well as serious lapses in service standards, especially safety.
Earlier on Thursday, Uber said in a statement that the company is aware of the recent incidents involving Uber and is "deeply concerned" as it takes the safety of riders and drivers seriously.
"We want to assure you that we are investigating and addressing each of these incidents and are actively engaging with PDRM and SPAD to assist them in their investigations," Uber Malaysia general manager Leon Foong said.
Foong said he welcomed feedback and the cooperation of the community and various organisations, to further Uber's common purpose of providing safe and reliable transport in Malaysia.