Though passengers are supposed to wear masks, the artificial intelligence will not be used for them.
New Uber AI technology is being used to help ensure that the ride hailing service’s drivers all obey the mandatory regulation that they wear masks.
The artificial intelligence is incorporated into a new selfie-taking rule every time the driver goes online.
As of this week, every time the drivers go online, they need to snap a selfie of themselves to gain access to the rest of the rideshare service app. This will trigger an algorithm running through the Uber AI component of the application and will scan to confirm that the driver is wearing a mask. Masks are already mandatory for all drivers, but this is meant to be a method of enforcement to ensure they are complying.
All Uber passengers are also required to wear masks when they ride in the cars. However, they don’t need to use the artificial intelligence algorithm or take a selfie to prove it. Instead, they will complete a safety requirement checklist that will require them to confirm that they are indeed wearing a face cover.
The Uber AI feature was added to complement another driver verification feature already in place.
According to the company’s head of driver and safety product, Sachin Kansal, the app’s Real-Time ID Check was already in place to verify the driver’s identification. This was used as a framework and built upon to make it possible to confirm that the driver was also wearing the required mask as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.
“We do not have a similar framework on the rider’s side, and it was one of our goals to launch this as fast as possible,” explained Kansal at a media conference. This explained why the artificial intelligence feature is applied on the driver’s side of the app but not on the passenger’s side. “That is one of the reasons why you’ve seen us do that on the driver’s side.” The goal was to roll out what was available as quickly as possible instead of waiting for it to be ready on both the driver and passenger’s side of the application.
The Real-Time ID Check Uber AI feature will detect only the mask on the drivers, but not process other biometric data. It will not compare the selfies to other driver photos in the system. In this way, the goal is only to confirm compliance but not risk crossing privacy lines or alarming critics that have accused that feature of failing to recognize transgender faces.