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July 16, 2018

Want a ride? Show your ID, say taxi app drivers as crime rises

An Uber driver protests on September11 last year /ENOS TECHE
An Uber driver protests on September11 last year /ENOS TECHE

Two weeks ago, a group of cab drivers who use digital cab-hailing platforms gathered at Uhuru park to discuss the rise in targeted killings and carjacking of their members.

Scared for their safety, the drivers now want taxi firms to provide rider details including their contacts, photo and copy of their ID. They said the risk passengers face has been widely debated at the expense of that drivers face. “We are on our own. Laws to regulate the digital hailing cabs do not exist and the app companies are not willing to share rider information with security organs,” Kenya Taxi Welfare Association representative Daniel Omondi told the Star yesterday. 

He said there is no solid agreement on driver security and sharing of rider information. The alert button on the mobile app a driver can press in case of any emergency is not enough, Omondi said. A  cab driver who sought anonymity said last week, he was blocked and arrested by Flying Squad officers on claims he had ferried a thief days earlier.

The Flying Squad team used CCTVs to capture the number plate of the vehicle, tracked the driver down and demanded the wanted passenger’s information. The driver did not have any. On assumption he had refused to cooperate, the officers detained him at a Nairobi police station. 

Uber says it has not partnered with any security enforcement unit, but has formed two response teams - an Incidence Response and Law Enforcement Response team - to act on drivers’ queries. “The incidents range from minor to criminal activities and drivers can report them through their applications,” Uber communications manager Janet Kemboi said.

brother’s keeper

Kenyan-owned Sharecab said it has an alert system and drivers can press a distress button when in trouble.

With less than one year in the market, the app, through the distress button, informs other drivers within a radius of five kilometres that one of their own is in trouble and needs help. It provides the driver’s phone number, relative’s details and his or her name. 

Little, also a taxi-hailing firm, said it has an alert button which directs to the KK Security company calling for backup. Little plans to launch a new feature that will help drivers track and get access to rider information by April this year.

In 2016, traditional cab drivers and Uber drivers were engaged in conflict with the former claiming the new kids on the block had ‘stolen’ their customers with cheaper rates.







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