- Uber announced it will highlight safety information in its app, including a push alert that will encourage riders to check the license plate, make and model of their ride and the name and picture of the driver, the company’s top legal official told NBC News. The new features come in the aftermath of the murder of University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson, who was killed by the driver of a vehicle she thought was her Uber.
- The features, which started in South Carolina last week and will expand nationwide, include a banner that says "check your ride every time," followed by two notifications reminding riders to check to make sure it is the correct ride.
- Lyft also announced that its drivers will be subject to continuous criminal background checks, rather than an initial check when drivers join and annual updates. The company will also roll out a new identity verification process, requiring drivers to provide evidence they have a current drivers license and offer a real-time photo of their face.
Josephson's murder refocused attention on the potential dangers of ride-sharing and led to the introduction of a bill in the state House that would require Lyft and Uber vehicles to have illuminated signs on their windshields (that bill has passed the House and is now before the state Senate). Speaking on the Today Show, Uber's chief legal and security officer Tony West said "we are heartbroken about what has happened," adding it was "a reminder that we have to constantly do everything we can to raise the bar on safety."
Uber has struggled with high-profile safety incidents in recent years, notably the treatment of an Indian woman who was raped by a driver (the company’s license was temporarily revoked by the city of London over safety concerns). CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has made safety a priority since taking the helm in 2017, adding an emergency button to its app, giving riders and drivers a way to directly contact 911 and creating a “Ride Check” feature that detects an unexpected stop.
Lyft, meanwhile has focused its new safety features on driver identity, working to eliminate fraud with additional identity checks. Increased background checks will also weed out potential security risks; Lyft says any driver who does not pass annual and continuous screenings will be barred.
Uber is preparing its IPO and Lyft is already being publicly traded, making safety even more of a priority. Both companies were in the spotlight already, but being publicly traded invites even more scrutiny from stakeholders and regulators, especially after a negative incident.