- The recent killing of the 21-year-old University of South Carolina college student Samantha Josephson, who got into the car of a fake ride-hailing-app driver, has spawned a safety campaign called #WhatsMyName.
- But one of the woman’s classmates has a simple idea that ride-hailing companies could use to help.
- She’s advocated that these companies add simple QR code IDs to their apps that would easily validate the driver’s identity before getting into the car.
The recent killing of the 21-year-old University of South Carolina college student Samantha Josephson, who mistakenly got into a car she believed to be her Uber ride, has made national news – and rightly so.
It’s a terrifying outcome to a common mistake, as anyone who has ever waited for a driver and walked up to the wrong car can attest to. And it has birthed the #WhatsMyName campaign, which urges people to pay more attention to which car they’re getting into.
Ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft have added a lot of features to their apps to increase rider safety – but this person wasn’t her Uber driver, so the situation was outside their control. It seems like it would be difficult, if not impossible, to help protect people beyond what these ride-hailing companies already do: share the make, model, and colour of the car, the driver’s name and photo, and the car’s licence-plate number.
But there may be a solution to protect against fake drivers with criminal intent – or, for that matter, to protect the drivers against fake passengers.
Specifically, one of Josephson’s classmates, Sydney Ford, is lobbying for Uber and Lyft to add QR codes to their apps that would easily match a driver to a passenger as the passenger approached. So far, nearly 23,000 people have signed the petition on Change.org to add those QR codes, and it’s growing hourly.
While she’s pushing for QR codes, there are other identity technologies that might also work. There are all sorts of apps these days that turn your phone into a personal ID – known in the industry as a hardware security token – that could then be securely matched with the driver’s ID.
The bonus of such an authentication system is that it would not only protect passengers from getting into a fake driver’s car but also help protect drivers from picking up fake passengers as well.
Lyft and Uber have both been notified that the petition is in progress but have not yet commented on it, the organisation told us.
Uber sent a statement expressing sorrow for the family, saying it has been working with law enforcement over the fake-driver issue since 2017 and promising to do more to raise awareness. It did not comment on this idea but did point out other safety initiatives.
It also said it is working on a new system to send push notifications during pickups to remind people to make sure they are getting into the right car.
Lyft said it “values feedback” from riders and drivers, although it didn’t comment on this idea specifically. It also pointed out its existing safety features, including Lyft Amp, “a display that sits on a driver’s dash and acts as a beacon, changing colour (including green, orange, yellow, purple, and grey) to match the passenger’s app, and helping them identify their ride more easily.”
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