Lyft is beefing up its driver background check process with two new features it says are intended to “[improve] the safety and security of [its] platform.” It today announced continuous background checks and enhanced identity verification, both of which will roll out in the coming days to weeks.
“The safety of the Lyft community is our top priority, and since the beginning, we have worked to design policies and features that protect both drivers and riders,” Lyft wrote in a blog post. “Our goal is to make every ride — in a car, on a bike, or on a scooter — safe, comfortable, and reliable.”
Toward that end, continuous criminal background checks will monitor drivers daily and immediately notify Lyft of “any disqualifying criminal convictions,” the company says. Active drivers who don’t pass an annual screening — which includes a Social Security number trace, nationwide criminal search, county court records search, federal criminal search, and a U.S. Department of Justice 50-state sex offender registry search — in addition to continuous screenings will be barred from the platform. It’s unclear if they can become eligible to reapply.
As for the new and improved identity verification process, Lyft says it combines driver’s license verification with photographic identity verification to prevent identity fraud. Drivers identified as potentially fraudulent will be asked to volunteer a real-time photo of their face and evidence that they’re carrying an approved ID.
“This enhanced identity verification process will layer onto the variety of security tools we already use to detect early signals of fraud, and such potentially fraudulent drivers will be required to complete this verification process in order to continue driving on our platform,” Lyft added.
Lyft’s rollout of continuous background checks comes after Uber introduced a similar feature in U.S. in July 2018, using technology developed by startup Appriss. (Uber previously only ran background checks on drivers “periodically.”) At the time, it told Axios that in a pilot test, it led to 25 drivers being removed.
There’s a large and growing market for continuous background check services, and for a good reason — traditional background checks are one-time deal, so if a contract worker commits a crime a few weeks into a job, their employer usually remains none the wiser. Last year in Massachusetts, more than 8,000 ride-sharing drivers failed a state background check for infractions like license suspensions, sexual offenses, and violent crimes, and CNN recently pegged the number of U.S. Uber drivers accused of assaulting passengers at 103.
San Francisco-based Checkr, which counts Instacart, Grubhub, and Uber among its base of more than 10,000 customers, in July launched Continuous Check, which it says was co-developed with Uber. When it identifies that an employee was involved in criminal activity, like a new or pending charge for a DUI, it notifies the worker’s employer, who can investigate further.
In tangentially related news, Lyft also announced today a simplified pickup experience for airport passengers. Starting at the San Diego International Airport (Terminal 2) in mid-May, the Lyft app will direct users to a pickup area, where they’ll join a line with other Lyft passengers and show a unique four-digit code to the next available driver.