How safe are the food delivery and ride-hailing industries?
Just how safe are the food delivery and ride-hailing industries for both customers and drivers, and what are the main players doing to maximize security and privacy in the industry?
For urban residents it’s hard to remember the days when we couldn’t just pick up our phone and use an app to hail a ride at any time of the day or night, and then get our favorite food delivered direct to our door when we got home.
Uber was founded in California in 2009 and was the catalyst for a revolution in the personal transportation industry that spread all over the world, with dozens of similar companies being set up in every major city around the globe. The model of a quick, easy, and cost-effective ride-hailing service managed entirely from a phone app has been a hit with customers everywhere.
Uber Eats was founded in 2014 and again has had a huge impact on how people buy ready-to-eat meals. In the US, online food ordering has grown 300% faster than dine-in since 2014 and now accounts for roughly 40% of all restaurant sales.
The net result is that most people now have several ride share and food delivery apps on their phones, and the list will only grow as more food and restaurant businesses launch their own delivery services. We have also seen the growth of what McKinsey calls shared micromobility where app users can rent e-bikes or electric scooters.
That adds up to a lot of companies that know where we live, could potentially track our movements and habits, and who we trust to get us home. Not to mention the delivery drivers that we gladly open our doors to at any time of the day or night.
Are we being naïve to think that our safety is not being impacted? And not just our physical safety, what about our digital safety, our personal details and payment information that these apps have access to?
In this blog we look at the actual risks, the measures that these companies are taking to keep their customers and drivers safe, and some of the technology that drives it.
Value of the global online food delivery market in 2021.
Growth in revenue for food delivery industry in past 5 years.
The number of food delivery app users in the US in 2020.
Are ride-hailing and food delivery apps safe?
We are all aware of the news stories about ride-hailing passengers that have been involved in accidents or become the victims of crime. However, these stories promote a particular kind of cognitive bias called mean world syndrome, which is when people’s perception of a threat is artificially inflated due to the attention that it receives in the media. It is the same effect that films like Jaws had on people’s desire to go swimming!
In reality, these apps are far safer than we think. Uber now publishes a Safety Report which details all road traffic accidents and cases of assault and sexual misconduct. According to statistics, when it comes to road accidents, in the US you are half as likely to be seriously injured or killed when travelling as an Uber passenger as you would if you were driving your own vehicle. The exact stat was one passenger death per 90 million Uber trips, which puts the risk into perspective.
When it comes to personal safety, there will always be a risk getting into a stranger’s car, but this is not new. If anything, being under the media spotlight means that the driver vetting process is far more stringent than traditional taxi firms, or owner-operated cabs. And don’t forget that for decades we have been happy to get a pizza delivered from our local Italian take-away by a random person on a moped.
A 2020 report by Alarms.org on the safety of women using Uber and Lyft showed that while there were many negative experiences reported, ranging in severity from actual physical assault to female passengers being made to feel uncomfortable, the research showed that women consider Uber and Lyft safer than taxis, professional car services, and public transportation.
If anything, the technology that industry giants like Uber, Bolt and Lyft have access to means that their driver recruitment and vetting processes are superior. With the help of technology partners, they have implemented solutions like number masking and two-factor authentication to ensure privacy and enhance the safety of both customers and drivers.
Let’s take a look at some of these measures and how they work.
How mobility sharing apps ensure user safety
Number masking enables two-way voice calls, without exposing each person’s phone number. These calls can be initiated from within a ride sharing or food delivery app or from a website with a simple click-to-call button.
This method ensures secure and convenient calling between customers and drivers for necessary updates like ‘I’m caught in traffic’ or ‘Please don’t use the doorbell as the baby is sleeping’. It is much easier than using in-app chat or SMS, and safe and legal for drivers in transit.
It works by connecting through a third-party (proxy) phone number, provided by a supplier, that bridges the call. After the transaction is complete, the connection cannot be re-established and there is no record of the number used.
This technique can be used to anonymize communication between drivers and riders, but also buyers and sellers on auction and free-ads sites, recruiters and candidates, and between citizens and government officials. It is ideal for any use case where a temporary and anonymous voice connection is required to safeguard the privacy of both parties and reduce the risk of fraud, nuisance, or inappropriate communication.
When recruiting new drivers and signing up new app users it is crucial that the company is able to confirm that the person is who they say they are. However, this process needs to be simple and shouldn’t add additional friction to the sign-up process, therefore risking an increase in dropout rates.
The most efficient way of authenticating large numbers of app users is with an automated process that sends a one-time pin code (OTP) on a verified channel like SMS or WhatsApp as part of a 2FA verification process.
The value of automated authentication is that it can be used at any stage in the mobility sharing journey, from signing up, to cancelling transactions, changing payment details, and recovering account details.
For global businesses like Uber, an enterprise quality authentication solution allows them to use the best channel for sending OTPs in every country, with customers able to choose the one that suits them best, including Voice for people that have a visual impairment or for drivers that are on the road.
Automated identity checks
With multiple ride-hailing and food delivery companies available in most cities, there will be competition for both customers and high-quality drivers. It is therefore important to create an effective and seamless sign-up process that maintains the highest levels of security.
An effective first step in the sign-up process is to do an automated identity check using the person’s drivers license and a selfie that they submit. Facial recognition AI is used to automatically detect that the photo matches the license, and once cleared, the applying driver can be moved to the next stage in the vetting process.
This check can be conducted completely via a chatbot deployed on chat apps like WhatsApp, Messenger and Viber. Human agents can then be deployed to do the background checks and answer questions from the applicant.
Live help for passengers
Uber has been at the forefront of rolling out solutions to ensure the safety and peace of mind of customers in transit. Other companies are now following their lead as increased competition in the sector means that people have more choice about who they choose to ride with. Additional safety features are becoming a key differentiator.
- In-ride safety assistance: By partnering with specialist security companies, customers of ride-hailing apps can now get live help from trained agents silently via the app. The agent can provide advice and reassurance and if the situation escalates, they can call the emergency services on the person’s behalf and supply the location and vehicle and driver details.
- Emergency response: Uber has rolled out a feature in the US where customers can dial 911 directly using the in-app Emergency button. The app will show the vehicles live location and information, and in some cities this information is automatically provided to the 911 agent.
Use cases and customer stories
Infobip has worked with a number of global brands in the ride-hailing and transportation industry who have leveraged our solutions, expertise, and infrastructure to help secure their services. Click on each link to view the full customer story: