While Uber is currently caught amidst workplace harassment allegations, the ride-hailing giant is looking to bolster the security on its platform with the release of a real-time identification feature for drivers. It is aimed at improving the safety of drivers as well as riders, initially only in five Indian cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Kolkata.
Known as Real-time ID Check, this new tool will instruct the driver to periodically click selfies to verify their identity and enable Uber to ensure that the individual driving the cab is genuine or not. The American ride-hailing giant then matches the real-time images with the driver’s account on the platform to match their identity. Speaking about this initiative, Joe Sullivan, Chief Security Officer at Uber said,
This prevents fraud and protects drivers’ accounts from being compromised. It also protects riders by building another layer of accountability into the app to ensure the right person is behind the wheel. We believe this new initiative will go a long way in keeping our riders and drivers in the city safe and our rides reliable like never before.
As for the verification process itself, drivers will randomly be prompted to upload selfies to the Uber mobile app before they accept the next ride. Once the driver’s photograph is clicked, Microsoft’s Face API from its Cognitive Services suite will get activated and help the ride-hailing identify (or match) the driver with its partner database. Once the selfie is matched, the driver will be able to go online and accept rides until he’s prompted to re-verify his identity. A
The drivers will no longer be able to accept new rides until they have identified themselves i.e clicked a picture of their face using the Uber app. Further, the driver’s account will be temporarily blocked if two photographs fail to match with the one in Uber’s database. The ride-hailing giant has already conducted a pilot for this verification service in the United States and the average verification time was mere seconds, with a 99 percent success rate.
This sounds like a tedious process, but extremely necessary to main scrutiny and security on the platform. It enables the ride-hailing giant, which has previously been faced with instances of sexual assault, maintain a better grip on the service and make it safer for the commuters in the process. The verification process will further create transparency, providing riders access to driver’s name, photo, license plate number, and rating. The same goes for the user as well. They will also have each other’s contact, giving them freedom to convey pick-up details.
Further, Uber believes that the said feature will make the platform even safer as all of its driver partners would now be verified. They would have to abide by the company’s zero tolerance policy against abusive behavior and stay conscious of their actions. Also, Uber further plans to better the recruitment process by onboarding drivers only after a comprehensive background check and mandatory soft skill training.
As for the riders, the company is providing additional safety tools to further provide you comfort while ride in their cabs. You have the option of sharing the ride details, including the specific route and estimated time of arrival, with friends or family. They can keep track of the ride in real-time until it ends. Also, you have an SOS function, which is necessary for India, which connects the rider directly to the police control room and Uber internal response team.
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