Ola is trialling a new safety feature in Australia named ‘Guardian’, which tracks and reports unusual vehicle behaviour

Ola is trialling a new safety feature in Australia. (Photo by Hemant Mishra/Mint via Getty Images)
  • Rideshare company Ola is testing out a new safety feature called ‘Guardian’ that uses machine learning to detect unusual vehicle activity.
  • It will track factors like lengthy stops and unexpected deviations from a certain route.
  • Once it suspects unusual activity, drivers and riders will get a call from Ola’s safety response team.

Ola is trialling a new safety feature in Australia.

The ridesharing company is piloting a safety feature named ‘Guardian’ which uses machine learning to detect any “irregular vehicle activity” like lengthy stops and unexpected deviations from a route.

This is then flagged in real time to a safety response team who will contact both the rider and the driver to confirm they are both safe.

Ola launched Guardian in India in 2018 and will now move to bring it to Australia.

Simon Smith, Managing Director of Ola Australia and New Zealand, told Business Insider Australia, that Guardian is a world-first for the rideshare market.

“Globally, Ola is the only rideshare company that has the product,” he said. “We felt that it was a useful service, one that makes people incrementally safer and also it gives them … a greater sense of security when they’re using our service.”

However, Uber argues that its product, RideCheck, functions similarly to Guardian. Launched in the US in September 2018, RideCheck detects possible crashes or if a trip goes off course. Both the driver and rider will get a notification asking if everything is okay and they can either press the emergency button or report the issue.

Ola is doing the first phase of its pilot testing in Perth, which involves reviewing anonymised trip data and assessing irregular activity. It will log points throughout the city where drivers frequently stop, such as petrol stations and traffic lights, and identify places which aren’t often visited by drivers.

In the second phase of the pilot program, Ola’s safety team will begin contacting both drivers and riders when the technology detects something is wrong.

Smith explained that Guardian’s technology was created by Ola’s in-house AI team. He added that users won’t see any differences within the app during the trial unless Ola detects something unsual. In that case, you will get a call from Ola’s safety response team.

Ola is one of several other rideshare companies which have popped up in Australia, like Uber and China-based Didi. Ola launched in India in 2011 and has more than 2 million drivers across more than 250 cities. It made its way to Australia in 2018, beginning in Perth, before spreading to Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, the Gold Coast, Adelaide, Canberra and the Sunshine Coast. It also operates in New Zealand. Smith added that Ola has plans to double the size of its business by this time next year.

Guardian isn’t the first safety feature the company has rolled out. Smith claims Ola was the first rideshare company to introduce an emergency button within the app. Should a driver or passenger press the button, it gives them the option to either call emergency services, call a loved one, or request a call back from Ola’s safety response team.

Earlier this year Ola also launched a ‘one time passcode’ feature where riders are given a unique four digit password after they book a ride. This has to be entered correctly by the driver before the trip begins to make sure you’re in the right car.

Smith also said Ola is rolling out “selfie authentication” for its drivers – matching a requirement for Uber drivers. “When drivers log on first thing in their day, they may be required to send us a photo of themselves so we can be assured that it is actually the correct person driving the car,” Smith added.