Sat. Aug 24th, 2019

A classmate of the woman murdered after getting into a fake ride-share car is pushing Uber and Lyft for a simple safety fix (LYFT)

A classmate of the woman murdered after getting into a fake ride-share car is pushing Uber and Lyft for a simple safety fix (LYFT)

  • The recent murder of 21-year-old University of South Carolina college student Samantha Josephson, who got into the car of a fake rideshare driver, has spawned a safety campaign called #WhatsMyName.
  • But one of the woman’s classmates has a simple idea that ride share companies could do 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 murder of 21-year-old University of South Carolina college student Samantha Josephson, after she 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.  And it has birthed the #WhatsMyName campaign, urging people to pay more attention to which car they’re getting into. 

Ride-share companies like 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. So it seems like it would be difficult, if not impossible, to help protect people beyond what these ride share companies already do: share the make, model and color of the car, the driver’s name and photo and the car’s license plate number. 

Read: Uber will launch new efforts to inform the public about fake rideshare drivers, after death of University of South Carolina student

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 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 an 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 protects passengers from getting into a fake driver’s car, but it could also help protect drivers from picking up fake passengers as well.

Lyft and Uber have both been notified the petition is in progress but have not yet commented on it, the organization tells us. Lyft did not immediately responded to a request for comment on the idea by Business Insider.

Uber sent a statement expressing sorrow for the family, noting 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 pickup to remind people to make sure they are getting into the right car.

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