Uber India announces Real Time ID check for added passenger safety: Here's how it works

Uber India has announced a Real Time ID check feature for its India app which will debut in five cities: Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata today. More cities will follow soon.

Uber India has announced a Real Time ID check feature for its India app which will debut in five cities: Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata today. More cities will follow soon.

Real Time ID check is Uber's latest security feature which will periodically prompt a drive to take a selfie, which is then matched with the driver details on Uber's servers. If the driver details don't match, then the driver account will be suspended for a while as the matter is investigated.

Uber claims that this is being done to ensure that drivers details are constantly under check and drivers are prevented from fraud and their accounts are prevented from being compromised. As far as the rider is concerned, he or she will know for a fact that the Uber driver on the app matches with the actual driver who comes to pick you up.

"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,” said Joe Sullivan, chief security officer at Uber.

Uber India announces Real Time ID check for added passenger safety: Heres how it works

Real Time ID Check

According to Uber India, there have been cases where riders have complained that the driver which the app showed them and the actual person driving, at times looked different.

In India according to Uber, lot of drivers share vehicles. "So it may happen that the relieving driver may have forgotten to log out of the account, before giving the vehicle to the next driver. With Real Time ID check, the rider does not have to worry on that front at all, as we verify drivers before the ride is booked," said an Uber India spokesperson.

This program has already piloted in the US last year. The average verification time is a few seconds and the technology was successful in verifying more than 99 percent of drivers in the pilot program.

Uber is using Microsoft Cognitive Services for face detection. Something like a Windows Hello facial recognition technique if you will. In case there is a mismatch in the selfie sent by the driver and the photo in Uber's database, the driver will get prompts such as "take off your glasses" or "retake a photo".

According to Uber, photos taken even in lowly lit conditions will work and the driver does not necessarily need a very high end phone with a selfie-flash or anything. As long as the smartphone is approved for use for the Uber driver app, it will work with Real Time ID check as well. To ensure that drivers do not face an issue with clicking a selfie in low light, Uber has rebuilt the user interface in a manner that display becomes very bright like a front-facing flash. Also if the Uber database has a photo of a clean shaven driver and later if the driver decides to grow a beard, the facial hair will not be an issue with image matching.

"Drivers will be prompted at times to submit photos before going online. Sometimes it will be random, sometimes it could be triggered by other indicators including rider feedback or suspicious behavior like driving two consecutive trips on opposite sides of a city," says Uber.

The verification process will take place before the driver access the app or accepts a ride. It will not happen after a ride is booked, so as to prevent any wastage of driver or rider time.

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