Uber India to introduce real-time facial recognition feature for drivers

March 13, 2017 - 

Uber India will introduce its facial recognition-based Real Time ID check feature for its India app in Mumbai, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata, with more cities to follow soon, according to a report by Tech 2.

Real Time ID check prompts drivers to take a selfie before they access the app or accepts a ride, which is then matched with their photo stored on Uber’s servers.

If the images do not match, the driver’s account will be temporarily suspended as the matter is investigated.

The security measure is intended to ensure that driver’s biometric details are constantly being scrutinized while preventing drivers and their accounts from being compromised by fraudsters.

In addition, the feature reassures passengers that the Uber driver on the app is, in fact, the same person who is picking them up.

“This prevents fraud and protects drivers’ accounts from being compromised,” said Joe Sullivan, chief security officer at Uber. “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.”

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, according to Uber India.

“So it may happen that the relieving driver may have forgotten to logout of the account, before giving the vehicle to the next driver,” said an Uber India spokesperson. “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.”

The security feature was piloted in the US last year, where it achieved an average verification time of a few seconds and correctly verified more than 99 percent of drivers.

Uber is using Microsoft Cognitive Services for face detection. If the system finds a mismatch between the driver’s selfie and the photo stored on the database, it will prompt the driver to either “take off their glasses” or “retake a photo”.

The system accepts photos that are taken even in lowly lit conditions and the driver does not require a high-end smartphone with a selfie-flash, Uber said.

All smartphones that are approved for use for the Uber driver app will also work with Real Time ID check.

In addition, any change in the driver’s facial hair will not affect the accuracy of the image matching.

“Drivers will be prompted at times to submit photos before going online,” Uber said. “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.”

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.