Uber says face biometrics address problems as its critical London license appeal kicks off
Uber, the company everyone loves to hate until they have somewhere to go or some money to invest, this week will appeal a decision in London that could ban it from sharing rides in that city, despite an implementation of face biometrics.
At issue is a driver verification system that failed spectacularly last year allegedly with thousands of unauthorized drivers fraudulently took Uber calls, operating without insurance while stealing business from legitimate drivers.
Last November, London’s transportation regulator, Transport for London (TfL), refused to renew Uber’s operating license because of the failure. The appeal of that decision began Monday and is expected to end Thursday. When the renewal was rejected, it was reported that the company was being pressured by TfL to implement fingerprint or facial biometrics for its drivers.
Uber’s sloppy identification systems is at the center of the tussle. It reportedly allowed 14,000 fraudulently booked trips last fall. Unauthorized drivers pulled this off by hijacking legitimate Uber drivers’ digital IDs to grab their calls.
TfL subsequently said that some drivers suspended after the scheme was thought to be shut down were able again to create fraudulent accounts and return to the road, according to Business Insider.
Company executives say they have fixed the problems , having launched biometric facial recognition based on selfies for drivers in April, and should be re-issued an operating license.
Getting shut out of London, a critical city with its 3.5 million ride sharers, would deal a measurable blow to its revenue. (Uber rides have continued there, pending the appeal.)
This is the second time TfL has withheld Uber’s license; the first refusal was in 2017 and was attributed to safety concerns and municipal anger over Uber’s alleged use of a home-grown software tool that helped it operate in jurisdictions that had banned the service.
Uber does not make for a very good underdog.
Its controversies are many and occasionally iconic: labor disputes, accusations that Uber competes unfairly with taxi drivers, price gouging after Hurricane Sandy, overt corporate misogyny, harassment of a female reporter, driver vetting nightmares, autonomous Uber cars self-driving through stop lights, and a revolt against the CEO by Uber’s largest investors to name some.