Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: Uber is tackling the issue of drivers in Dubai working long shifts and suffering from fatigue by enforcing a maximum drive time, it said on Wednesday.

After 12 accumulated hours of driving, the application will shut down and the driver will no longer be able to accept new passengers, until he or she has been offline for six hours.

The safety feature, which rolled out in 38 countries on Wednesday, was accompanied by a number of other new functions, such as a panic button used to contact the emergency services, and a way for friends and family members to track a passenger’s journey.

Originally announced at the beginning of September, the company says it plans to make these services available globally by the end of the year.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE will be the first countries in the Middle East to receive the update.

The US-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that fatigue causes around 100,000 accidents a year in America, resulting in 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion (Dh45.9 billion) in costs.

Uber declined to provide any internal figures regarding the instances of fatigue-related accidents involving their drivers in the UAE.

Despite local labour law stating that individuals may only work 12 hour shifts, many private taxi drivers are known to drive for longer, sometimes as much as 18 hours in a day.

Sachin Kansal, Uber’s global head of safety product, said that the company continued to work closely with Dubai’s authorities. He refused to rule out introducing CCTV cameras in cars at some point in the future.

“We need to balance privacy with safety concerns,” Kansal said, speaking at the launch event.

The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Uber plans to offer shares in an IPO next year, and could achieve a $120 billion valuation when it goes public.