Uber drivers will snap selfies to signal they're legit

Uber's new Real-Time ID Check feature helps verify a driver's identity. How? By taking a selfie, of course.

Gordon Gottsegen CNET contributor
Gordon Gottsegen is a tech writer who has experience working at publications like Wired. He loves testing out new gadgets and complaining about them. He is the ghost of all failed Kickstarters.
Gordon Gottsegen

Uber just announced a new feature in its ride-hailing app that's meant to make the service safer. Called Real-Time ID Check, it verifies the driver's identity by requiring him or her to snap a selfie. This helps the passenger, who can double-check the driver, and further safeguards the driver against fraudsters who might compromise a driver's account.

When it comes to passenger welfare, Uber can take all the credit it can get. The company is often accused of not doing enough to, from rebutting reports of drivers' sexual assault to failing to catch some drivers' criminal records during a background check. Recently, Uber drivers in China stirred up controversy by uploading creepy profile pictures to scare riders into canceling. In California, an all-female ride-hailing service launched in response to fears over the safety of female passengers.

The feature works as such:

A pop-up message appears from time to time on the driver's app stating that the driver's identity needs to be verified before they can accept more rides. The message then initiates the device's front-facing camera to take a selfie. Uber then uses Microsoft's Cognitive Services to compare the photo with the driver's photo on file. If the photos match, the driver can continue picking up passengers. If not, Uber places a temporary ban on the driver's account.

Uber claims that during testing more than 99 percent of drivers were verified, and mismatches were mostly due to unclear profile pictures.