After numerous calls to strengthen its driver safety measures, Bolt South Africa is testing a new rider verification feature that compels new riders to undergo a stringent verification process before requesting a ride on the platform.
According to a statement, the new in-app feature is part of Bolt’s ongoing investment in safety capabilities on its platform, reinforcing its commitment to driver safety and strengthening driver-rider trust.
As part of this in-app feature, new riders to the platform will be asked to take a selfie image with their phone and upload it on the app, before they are able to place a ride-hailing request. The riders must also upload a copy of their identification document, which Bolt will check against the selfie.
The past few years have seen e-hailing drivers hold nationwide protests, urging government to intervene in the increasing crime incidents they are subjected to, at the hands of criminals and rival metered taxi operators.
Since inception, the industry has been tainted by incidents of violent attacks, and in some instances, drivers being hijacked or killed by criminals masquerading as riders.
“At Bolt, we know from our 150 million-plus customers and network of 3.5 million fleet, driver and courier partners, that feeling safe is a critical part of a high-quality ride-hailing experience,” says Takura Malaba, regional manager, East and Southern Africa at Bolt.
“That’s why safety is our top priority, and rider verification is the newest feature we’re testing dedicated to upgrading driver safety. It’s part of our ongoing investment in new products, features, and our dedicated in-house specially trained safety team, to ensure we can continue to improve the safety ecosystem of the Bolt app.”
According to Bolt, for the selfie to be valid, it needs to be an authentic picture of a physically present person, with the face clearly visible. The image and identification are verified by Bolt and the rider will not be able to place a ride-hailing order if their selfie is not valid, it says.
The validation process takes a couple of minutes, and riders only have to take a selfie the first time they place an order. This feature, being tested in SA and other parts of the globe, requires the latest version of the app to use.
The rider verification feature joins a suite of existing driver safety features on the Bolt app, including an emergency response service. When activated, this service shares the driver’s details and location with the Automobile Association’s 24/7 contact centre and deploys private security and emergency services immediately.
In July, Bolt introduced an audio recording feature that allows drivers to trigger an in-app audio recording if they feel uncomfortable during a ride. Recordings are encrypted and stored on the recorder’s device for 24 hours.
Bolt encourages passengers to update the app to the latest version, to access this feature and contribute to the collective goal of creating a safer ride-sharing environment.
In its data privacy notice, Bolt says customer trust is its top priority and it takes several steps to ensure the protection of personal data.