For all its improvements over traditional taxis, Uber’s safety features are far from perfect. There’s no effective emergency hotline, its background checks aren’t failsafes, and there’s no way to guarantee the driver you thought you hailed is the same person who’s actually behind the wheel.
In order make Uber a little bit safer, the company is releasing a facial recognition test for its drivers across China. When new drivers sign up for accounts, the software will take a photograph that displays the driver’s face clearly. Later on, the app will run periodic facial recognition tests to make sure that the person behind the wheel is the same person who created the account.
These tests can in theory prevent registered drivers from handing over their phones to friends or acquaintances, who might then drive for Uber on someone else’s account and share the revenue later. This practice is not uncommon in China—it’s quite normal to hail a vehicle and be greeted by a driver who looks different from the face that appeared earlier in the app.
The company did not state if or when similar features would be released worldwide.
The software was created by Face++, a Chinese startup that specializes in facial recognition software. The company also powered Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma’s demonstration of a “pay with a selfie” feature last year for his Alipay mobile payment software.