Bolt combats ‘tenant drivers’ with selfie check

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 19 Jan 2023

Bolt has introduced theBolt Driver Selfie Verification feature on its mobile app to combat driver impersonations and renting of profiles by third parties who are not registered with the e-hailing firm.

Over the past few years, some registered drivers of the e-hailing app have been accused of renting out their profiles to friends or strangers who are not formally registered or known to Bolt.

This act, which involves a daily rental fee paid to the legitimate driver, often leads to the unknown driver committing criminal acts under an innocent person’s name.

According to the company, the new security feature performs an impromptu identification detection check,called “Liveness Detection”, which requires that drivers share a live selfie, before going online. This ensures the driver using the app matches the image of the registered account on Bolt’s system.

The selfie is then compared to a government database (Department of Home Affairs) to verify that the correct driver is behind the wheel. If a driver fails the selfie verification, their account is permanently blocked and they can never use the Bolt app again, warns the company.

Bolt regional manager for South and East Africa, Takura Malaba tell ITWeb: “The Liveness Detection check uses various machine learning and artificial intelligence models to authenticate the real-time photo, ensuring that we receive a live facial photo rather than the driver using a photo of a photo.This provides a sense of security for riders who feel safer on their trips, by knowing that the driver registered on the app is the same driver that arrives to pick them up.”

For drivers, this ensures that they comply and form part of a community of drivers that are trusted and reliable, which will ensure more people use the Bolt platform. This way, they will increase their earnings due to more utilisation of the platform, adds Malaba.

The feature is being piloted across 25% of Bolt’s driver base, with the intention to roll it out to all drivers by 1 March 2023, according to the company.

In 2017, Bolt rival Uber introduced a similar real-time ID check on its app – a feature that periodically prompts drivers to share a selfie with Uber before they go online to start accepting ride requests.

The illegal renting out of e-hailing driver profiles has led to the so-called “tenant drivers” in the past having been accused of participating in various crimes, including rape, assault and stealing unsuspecting passengers’ money and mobile phones.

In October,Bolt told ITWeb it had introduced various measures to combat this illegal act. These includerobustly implementing compliance measures to root out this type of activity and ensure driver adherence to the company’s terms and conditions.

Bolt has also been shutting down advertising online platforms and social media pages aimed to illegally connect drivers wishing to rent out their Bolt driver accounts to friends and strangers who want to informally drive on the platform.