The move follows the death of Samantha Josephson, a student at the University of South Carolina, who was kidnapped and murdered in late March. She was found dead after getting into an automobile that she believed to be her Uber drive. The murder, which has garnered nationwide media attention, seems to have spurred action by the ridesharing behemoths.
In response, Uber is launching the Campus Safety Initiative, which includes brand-new features in the app. Currently, the features are in testing, and they remind riders to check the license plate, make and version of the automobile, as well as the motorist’s name and graphic, before ever entering into an automobile. The experiment is running in South Carolina, in partnership with the University of South Carolina, with plans to rotate out nationwide.
Lyft, which went public on March 29, has implemented continuous backdrop checks for drivers this week. (Uber has had this in place since last year.) Lyft also enhanced its identity verification process for drivers, which combines motorist’s license verification and photographic identity verification to prevent motorist identity bluff on the platform.
Uber, prepping to debut on the public marketplace, is taking the safety precautions seriously. The brand-new system reminds riders about checking their drive three separate times: the first is a banner at the bottom of the app once the drive has been ordered, the second is a warning to check license plate, automobile details and photo, and the third is an actual push notification before the motorist arrives reminding riders to check once more.
Alongside the reminder system, Uber is also working to build out dedicated pickup zones in the Five Points district of Columbia, with plans to rotate out dedicated pickup zones at other U.S. universities.
That said, Uber has also warned investors ahead of its IPO about a forthcoming safety report on the company, which could be damaging to the brand. The report is supposed to be released sometime this year, and will give the public its first comprehensive look at the scale of safety incidents and issues that occur on the platform.
“The public responses to this transparency report or similar public reporting of safety incidents claimed to have occurred on our platform … may result in negative media coverage and increased regulatory scrutiny and could adversely affect our reputation with platform users,” said Uber in its April 14 IPO paperwork.
Indeed, the issue of safety on platforms like Uber and Lyft, or really any app that asks you to be alone with total strangers, goes well beyond any solo incident. a cnn investigation found that 103 Uber drivers had been accused of sexual attack or abuse in the last four years.