Grab Malaysia began to roll out a face recognition feature to increase driver safety in April. First-time users of Grab must now take a selfie of themselves via the app for verification before they can book their first ride.
The ride-hailing company claims that since introducing this enhanced passenger verification feature, passenger-related crimes such as attempted robbery, various forms of abuses and sexual harassments have declined by 30%.
Grab is working on extending this feature to all passengers in Malaysia this year, but the consequences of being easily identifiable as a Grab passenger apparently hasn’t had a deterrent effect on criminals yet.
Just last week, a full-time Grab driver named Mohammad Hanafiee Bin Jaafar was reported to have been robbed and killed by passengers. Local authorities in Sabah arrested two suspects three days later. The duo confessed to the crime, as well as dumping the body of the 27-year old victim in Tuaran, a town 34km away from the capital of the state of Sabah.
In a statement Grab released today, the company said it reached out to Malaysian police as soon as the driver was reported missing and provided the necessary information to help the investigation which eventually led to the arrest of the two suspects.
The information Grab says it provided police included a photo of one of the suspects and information from the passenger selfie verification feature introduced last month.
The ride-hailing unicorn has several measures to protect its riders, such an emergency button and in-car cameras. In particular, the emergency button feature allows passengers to send an alert to the Malaysian Emergency Response Services. Grab has also partnered with Malaysian police to combat child kidnapping in the country.
However, there isn’t as much attention on the safety of Grab’s drivers, and the passenger verification process was only just introduced.
Hanafiee’s murder isn’t the first time a Grab driver was attacked by passengers. Another Grab driver had been murdered in Selangor last year. The incident spawned a petition urging Grab Malaysia to ramp up safety measures for their drivers.
Hanafiee’s case also led to public outrage as users took to social media to express their frustration over a seeming lack of oversight. Local Grab drivers also expressed concerns for their safety.
Grab’s approach to designing safety features does seem to focus on passenger safety before that of its drivers. For example, the emergency button in Indonesia was rolled out only in the passenger-facing app, at least at first.
KrASIA has contacted Grab for more information on its future plans to ramp up security measures to protect its network of drivers but Grab has declined to comment further.