Uber makes face masks compulsory – and will use AI to ensure that drivers abide by the rules.
From Monday every time drivers go online they have to take a selfie that scans a computer vision algorithm to check if he’s wearing a mask.
Passengers also have to wear masks – but they don’t have to prove it with a selfie. Instead, they confirm that they are wearing face cover by completing a checklist of safety requirements.
[Read: Automated facial recognition breaches GDPR, says EU digital chief]
Sachin Kansal, Uber̵
“We don’t have a similar framework on the driver side, and one of our goals was to get this started as soon as possible,” Kansal said at an online press conference yesterday. “That is one of the reasons why you saw us on the driver side.”
The could alarm Critics of the real-time ID check, in which transgender faces are demonstrably not recognized. However, Uber says that, unlike real-time ID verification, the new system only recognizes the mask and does not process biometric data or compares the selfies with other driver photos.
Beyond this explanation, Uber has provided only a few details on how the system works – and what will prevent attempts to outsmart the AI. There are also no special masks that the driver has to wear. it only has to cover the face from the bridge of the nose to the chin.
T.The masks are mandatory for drivers in the United States, Canada, India and “most parts of Europe and Latin America” - but not in the UK, where masks are not yet required in crowded areas.
The AI system is part of a series of new security features that Uber hopes will bring customers back into the ride hail business.
Before accepting trips, drivers must also confirm that they have no symptoms of COVID 19, that they have disinfected their vehicle, and that they wash their hands regularly. Uber also wants all front seats to remain empty and the windows open for ventilation.
On the way to a pick-up point, drivers are reminded to wear a face covering, sit in the back, and open a window. If the driver is not wearing a mask, the driver can cancel the trip and state “no face covering or mask” as the reason.
Passengers must complete a similar checklist before looking for a driver. Repeat offenders risk being banished from the platform.
Uber says the new directive will be maintained until the end of June if it is reevaluated based on local public health needs. However, the company’s repeated references to a “new normal” indicate that the new rules will remain in effect for a long time.
Published 14 May 2020 – 14:50 UTC