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Uber and Lyft update safety features following murder of college student

Alyssa Clementi

Following the murder of a college student after she got into a car she mistook for her Uber, public outcry and petitions have prompted both Lyft and Uber to update their safety features. At the end of March, Samantha Josephson, a 21-year-old student at the University of South Carolina, was found dead, just hours after leaving her friends in what she thought was her Uber. Now, both ride-hailing companies have released a new set of initiatives to prevent this tragedy from happening again.

Earlier this week, Lyft announced it will be adding two new features to its platform: continuous criminal background checks and enhanced identity verification. Before Lyft drivers can give their first ride, they must already pass an initial criminal background check, and must have their background checked every 12 months after that. With continuous criminal background checks, Lyft will now keep daily tabs on their drivers, and will be alerted if any of them are arrested for a “disqualifying” crime.

Additionally, Lyft will be implementing a more detailed identity verification process, which uses both driver's license verification and photographic identity verification to prevent driver fraud. If a passenger has any doubts about their driver, they can require the Lyft driver to provide “evidence that they are carrying the approved driver’s license as well as a real-time photo of their face.”

Following suit, today Uber announced it will be partnering with the University of South Carolina for a new Campus Safety Initiative, effective immediately. Uber will also be launching new programs including a National Awareness Campaign, On-Campus Education, and Bystander Intervention. Dedicated Pick-Up Zones and Campus Rides will be available at the University of South Carolina, with the chance to expand to other colleges in the future.

“We were heartbroken by the recent crime committed by a fake rideshare driver in South Carolina. While no words can alleviate the loss felt by the Josephson family, we are committed to continuing to take action to make our communities safer,” said Andrew Macdonald, Uber, vice president of operations, Americas.

Uber will also be adding Check Your Ride Push Notifications and a Check Your Ride In-App Banner to its app, to remind passengers to double-check license plate and driver information before entering the car.

University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides, who will soon join Uber’s Safety Advisory Board said, “I am pleased to partner with Uber on a new Campus Safety Initiative along with other important advances. By promoting essential safety tips such as Check Your Ride and the university’s What’s My Name campaign, I truly believe we can help ensure ridesharing is safe for all students.”

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