This week, Uber and Lyft rolled out new safety measures designed to give riders confidence as to the identity of their driver. The changes come several weeks after a University of South Carolina student was murdered allegedly by a man posing as her Uber driver.
It’s a similar problem for both companies, but Uber and Lyft are taking slightly different approaches to rectify it. Uber’s app will push out an alert for riders to check the license plate, make, and model of the vehicle — as well as the name and picture of the driver — to confirm it’s the correct person picking them up. Lyft said it was now instituting a policy of continuous background checks and enhanced identity verification for drivers. (Uber implemented continuous background checks last year.)
The news comes weeks after Lyft went public, and just days before Uber is set to make its own debut on the public markets. Both companies are highly sensitive to claims their platforms are unsafe for riders, and are racing to make the changes necessary to assure customers they’re taking safety seriously.
Uber said it was debuting the new push alert in South Carolina, in partnership with the university, before rolling it out nationwide. University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson, 21, was last seen on March 29th getting into a vehicle that she assumed was her Uber ride. Her body was later found in a wooded area 65 miles away. The car’s driver, Nathaniel David Rowland, 24, faces kidnapping and murder charges.
“We are heartbroken about what has happened,’’ Uber chief legal officer Tony West told NBC News. “For us, it’s a reminder that we have to constantly do everything we can to raise the bar on safety.”
Lyft’s approach to the issue of fraudulent drivers is to implement continuous criminal background checks, as well as “a new, enhanced identity verification process.” Lyft drivers will now have to show a “real-time photo” and compare it to a driver’s license. Lyft says fraud is rare, but anyone trying to drive under someone else’s license and Lyft account will be permanently banned.
In 2016, Uber began requiring drivers to snap selfies before signing into the platform as part of a new feature called Real-Time ID Check. The company described it as a way to prevent fraud and protect drivers’ accounts from being compromised.