In order to build confidence among Uber users to use its services anywhere, anytime without giving a second thought about security, the global cab-hailing superpower has introduced a new feature that requires Uber drivers to take a selfie before accepting rides.

Aimed at avoiding duplication of driver details and curb the slowly spreading trend of impersonation by unregistered drivers, the newly launched facial recognition ID approval system for drivers is already live in Delhi, Kolkata, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Pune, and Lucknow. It will soon be rolled out in other Uber Indian cities as well.

Considering that two-thirds of the mobile devices sold in the Indian subcontinent are still feature phones, Uber has ensured that the IT backend for the ID validation of drivers also includes support for even low-end feature phones in addition to smartphones.

Whenever an Uber driver takes a selfie for validation before beginning his/hed ride, specific features of the driver are extracted from taken image and matched to the image available in company records. In order to provide a smooth experience to both its customers and drivers, the process takes place in real-time at in the IT backhaul.

Uber Drivers Selfies

Before zeroing in on facial recognition, Uber had even considered employing voice recognition, gesture recognition, but soon realised that both these methods weren't fit for India's emerging smartphone market as smartphone penetration in the country is still not 100 per cent. They decided to go with facial recognition as almost all phones, whether smartphone or feature, at least come with a camera.

Speaking to about the latest feature and his company's ideology behind introducing the same, Apurva Dalal, Head of Engineering, Uber India said, “At every step, we are maximising the usage of technology to bring transparency and accountability through several features, which we believe will have a positive impact on riders and driver partners."

In addition to the facial recognition feature for drivers, Uber is also planning on soon inserting IoT-based sensors in its cars so as to ensure real-time monitoring of the vehicle’s health, something which most Indians tend to ignore.

The IoT sensor would reportedly be responsible for analysing engine condition, alerting driver in case of an hard-breaking, and detecting zig-zag movements to determine if the driver is driving rashly.

In the recent past, Uber has undertaken quite a few initiatives to promote security and safe driving. Recently, it associated with Delhi Police to allow quick access to a women safety mobile app called Himmat. It had also collaborated with the top bars in the country in order to discourage drunk driving.

The cab hailing category is seeing a rapid increase in India despite the flailing economy and frequent tax reforms in the country. According to a recent report by business research firm RedSeer Consulting, despite supply side disruptions and regulatory challenges, online cab aggregators like Uber and Ola completed half a billion rides in the year 2016. This means the market saw 280 per cent growth compared to 2015, when the industry witnessed 130 million rides.

SoftBank-backed, home-grown company Ola and San Francisco-based Uber account for a majority of this growing market. However, Ola is currently leading the market. Let's see if Uber's recent moves ends up attracting some of Ola users to become Uber regulars.

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