The Lyft logo is seen on ride-hailing car in Manhattan in New York City
The Lyft logo is seen on ride-hailing car in Manhattan in New York City (Photo: Reuters/MIKE SEGAR)

Lyft on Tuesday announced new innovative features designed to improve the safety of its passengers. The company is adding an in-app panic button for riders who need to dial 911, the same feature added in the driver's app late last year. 

Other significant improvements in the company's services is a bigger version of the driver's license plate number in the app in a bid to prevent instances of passengers riding the wrong vehicle. These changes come a month after a student from the University of Carolina was killed allegedly by a man who posed as her Uber driver. 

In light of the several incidents of assault or harassment that have happened in transportation services over the last few years, Lyft is also training all their drivers what they need to know about sexual harassment and how to prevent it.  

According to a report by CNN last year, over 100 Uber drivers and 18 Lyft drivers had been accused of abuse or sexual misconduct, despite both companies claiming that they perform background checks to ensure the safety of their passengers. These unfortunate incidents led Lyft to requite passengers to leave feedback each time they rate a driver less than four stars. Passenger comments will remain anonymous when communicated to the driver.  

Lyft's updates come just over a month the company announced to conduct regular background checks in light of the unfortunate incidents. While these won't directly lead to fewer tragedies, they could lower the chances of having to deal with rogue drivers and give passengers more options for dealing with them in case the situation calls for it. 

"Lyft is relentlessly focused on finding new ways to further strengthen safety measures on our platform," Mary Winfield, Lyft's head of trust and safety, said in a blog post. "Today, we're glad to continue building on our commitment to safety by making it easier to identify your Lyft ride, get help in an unsafe situation, and ensure everyone in our community is held to the same standards." 

After going public in the last couple of months, both Lyft and Uber are dealing with a mob of angry drivers demanding higher compensation and better accountability from the ride-hail companies. 

The recent updates are part of a series of improvements Lyft promised to undertake to enhance passenger and driver safety. Uber implemented continuous background checks last year, around the same time it added a panic button for riders.