In September, Uber’s routine application for a new licence in London was rejected by TFL (Transport for London) who claimed that the organisation wasn’t a “fit and proper” car hire operator, as Marie Clutterbuck, CMO of Digital Barriers reports.

Its licence expired on September 30, but the signature Uber Toyota Prius continues to dominate the roads of central London as a lengthy legal battle rages on and is expected to continue for at least a year. A key reason for TFL rejecting Uber’s application was public safety and security concerns, including the way it reports serious criminal offences and completes driver background checks. Uber has defended its processes and the CEO has expressed a desire to work with TFL to “make things right”.

A more pressing problem for consumers using ride-hailing services like Uber is: how do we know that the person driving the car is the licensed person that they say they are? This question could in fact be positioned within the wider sharing economy globally, not just with Uber but similar services like, Crab, MyTaxi and Deliveroo.

How can we assure ourselves of the identity and trustworthiness of those providing us with peer-to-peer services organised through mobile platforms, when the platform owners themselves can’t always verify the identity of the “partner” logged on to their service? How do we know for sure that the person who underwent rigorous background checks is the same one turning up at our doorsteps?

Solving identity assurance on the road: Careem

Careem Networks is an organisation that has beaten Uber to the position of leading Middle Eastern ride-hailing service provider. Known for its service and platform innovation, Careem has adopted facial recognition technology powered by Digital Barriers to make its ride-hailing a safe experience. The backend biometric identification system enables Careem to verify the identity of each driver, anywhere, anytime, via the driver’s smartphone; which reduces the risks associated with misuse of the platform and insurance fraud.

The facial recognition feature will be especially effective in markets such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia where many working families depend on a “Careem Kids” service to safely transport their children to and from school.

Uber is already making regulatory changes to improve the safety of its service in London, such as stopping drivers from working excessive hours. It also makes sense to implement futuristic seeming, but in reality very straightforward, technologies such as facial recognition in order to make the process that bit safer.

The dawn of the connected car

Partnerships between mobility providers, like Careem or NEXT, and developers of security solutions like Digital Barriers will enable the development of new user experiences in mobility where your face becomes your secure access to a number of connected services and in-vehicle preferences.

The modern, connected car is already fitted with cameras to help with parking and to use for evidence in the event of an accident, but with the application of facial recognition they could be used for so much more. Imagine being able to unlock your car with a glance – keyless entry enabled by facial recognition is a more convenient option (you’ll never have to worry about losing your keys) and a safer one, as it prevents car theft on a new level.

Using facial recognition, cars could also be configured to turn on only if an authorised person is in the driving seat. As well as this, if several people are authorised to drive one car, it could adjust the seat, wing mirrors and radio station depending on the preference of the person whose face it captures in the driving seat.

Marie Clutterbuck

Mix this with autonomous driving, and the car would be able to acknowledge if the car’s owner entered the car at 8am on a Monday, that they would want to be taken to their workplace – and the car would drive there automatically without the “driver” having to press a button.

This sounds like something straight out of the pages of a Philip K. Dick novel, but what I’m illustrating above is very much the art of the possible. Technology is no longer the inhibitor, with the hurdles now being public acceptance of facial recognition and autonomous driving.

The author of this blog is Marie Clutterbuck, CMO at Digital Barriers

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