[Editorial notes: There has been a huge debate over security for customers using taxi cabs. And the government wants to promote Aadhar authentication for matrimonial sites). Truly speaking, Aadhar has several use-cases that needs to be thought through. Read up this guest piece by Nilesh Sangoi, Meru CTO.]
The recent incident in Delhi has given a jolt to the entire cab industry and all of us are working on building the necessary safeguards. The most important challenge is how we ensure that such serial offenders and psychos are stopped at the gate and not allowed to enter the system in the first place.
In our country, any documents like driving license, police verification etc can be forged, so the first challenge is how to verify the identity of the person with 100% assurance. The second challenge is how we ensure that only the person authorised by the cab company is actually driving the cab and not any unauthorised driver who is not verified or trained by the company. Third challenge is lack of availability and access to centralised database of criminal records that can be verified.
We’ve been thinking hard how to use technological innovation to solve some of these complex problems and help improve overall safety of women passengers for the entire cab industry.
We reached out to Sanjay Jain, who is an independent director on the board of Meru Cabs. He was the Chief Product Manager at UIDAI (better known as Aadhaar) during the initial period of design, implementation, launch and roll out on a massive scale. Aadhaar is the best example of a technology innovation to solve a complex problem for the benefit of masses and today, it is the only solution available that can provide unique identity of any person in the country.
It identifies a person based on fingerprint or iris scan, which is near impossible to forge or duplicate. The authority also collects the address proof and other relevant documents of the person while issuing the number, thus the address verification is also reasonably ensured.
With the help of Sanjay Jain and Khosla Labs, we have been able to deploy a simple app on Android phone integrated to a fingerprint scanner or an iris scanner which connects to the Aadhaar database with an open API to verify if the Aadhaar number belongs to the same person. There has been a large scale enrolment for Aadhaar especially in the SEC segment relevant to drivers and in the cities that we operate in.
As a first step, we have started capturing and verifying the Aadhaar number of all our drivers and also helping the enrolment of drivers who do not have Aadhaar number. This will alleviate the risk of a driver entering the system with a forged driving license to a great extent.
Over next few months we are also exploring the option of online driver identification inside the cab every few hours before a booking is assigned through Aadhaar biometric scan. This will be a foolproof way to ensure that only the authorised person is driving the cab. Currently there are challenges in having a biometric scanner integrated with the driver’s data terminal and its smooth functioning, but we are confident of resolving this issue over next few months.
Now comes the most difficult part of getting online information about the driver’s background check. This we believe can be achieved in following ways:
1. Government can take a lead in creating a centralised database of all persons with criminal background and linking them with Aadhaar number. This database can then be made available through open APIs to check the criminal record of any person by sending the Aadhaar number.
While this project sounds daunting due to involvement of various government agencies, just think of how difficult was Aadhaar project when Nandan Nilekani came up with the idea a few years back – that has become a reality today. There is enough talent available in private sector who is more than willing to help in such eGovernance projects for the greater good of the society.
2. While the above suggestion can take time to implement, we are proposing that all cab operators and aggregator companies come together and implement a centralised driver reputation agency on the lines of various credit agencies.
If any of the company encounters a driver with criminal background or a serious safety complaint from a passenger is received, the information can then be fed into the centralised registry for the benefit of other companies. Companies can also gather information about criminal background of a driver through the informal network of other drivers, who are from the same village and then get the information independently verified.
We think these steps will go a long way in improving the overall safety for the women passengers while traveling in cabs. . Safety is a complex issue which cannot be solved by one company alone but will need a sustained and systematic approach and collaborated working within the entire ecosystem.
[Reproduced from Meru blog.]