Life Tech Mask selfies arrive for Uber passengers
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Mask selfies arrive for Uber passengers

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Australian Uber passengers might soon have to snap a selfie to show they’re wearing a mask before they can book a car, as the ride-share app adapts to the coronavirus pandemic.

In response to passengers disobeying mandatory mask regulations in parts of the US, Uber is introducing mask selfies – riders will have to submit their covered face before their driver picks them up.

Uber says this will only apply to users who have flouted the rules in the past.

“If a driver reports to us that a rider wasn’t wearing a mask, the rider will be required to take a selfie with their face covered before they’re able to take another trip with Uber,” the company said.

“With the addition of this new feature, one driver’s feedback can help ensure the safety of Uber for the next driver.

“As always, riders and drivers are free to cancel a trip, without penalty, if the other person isn’t wearing a mask.”

Uber has asked its passengers to abide by some updated health and safety measures.

The tech will roll out in the US at the end of the month. Australia could very well follow, The New Daily understands from conversations with Uber’s local PR outlet.

Uber said the technology is just a verification tool that detects a mask as an object – it doesn’t process biometric information.

Strike a pose

‘Selfie verification’ technology for drivers (to verify it’s the registered driver behind the wheel) has been used by Uber for a few years.

But as anyone with face ID unlock on their phones has discovered, face masks pose a bit of a recognition problem.

Uber introduced the technology for its drivers in Victoria in July, and other services have followed suit, including Ola.

Ola’s selfie verification technology rolled out nationally on September 1, for drivers.

The selfie verifications for Ola have been undergoing a trial in Canberra for the past 12 months, before being rolled out nationally – with the addition of the mask feature in Melbourne.

However, the mask filter is built into the app and can be turned on in locations where required, an Ola spokesperson said.

Passengers won’t yet be required to verify their own face coverings, a company spokesperson told TND, but customers are required to wear masks during rides where government regulations apply.

DiDi asks the same of its drivers – they too must complete a selfie mask verification before starting their driving.

It doesn’t extend to passengers just yet.

“DiDi currently does not require riders to pass mask-verification prior to taking a trip but we do require riders in Melbourne and Geelong to wear appropriate face coverings, and recommend riders in Sydney do the same,” a DiDi spokesperson told TND.

“Drivers and riders on the DiDi platform are allowed to cancel trips due to COVID-19 concerns, should they feel uncomfortable.”