Uber's place in the sharing economy

Uber is the poster child of hyper-growth startups.
Uber is the poster child of hyper-growth startups.

Uber is back in the news after Parisian taxi drivers road-blocked the city in protest against UberPop, the carpooling service, which allows non-professional drivers to offer rideshares.

As a consequence, France's Interior Minister has banned the service from January 1st. The scenes were reminiscent of black cabbies bringing London to a standstill in the early summer.

The company has barely been out of the news in the last few weeks, and not always for the right reasons. An incident in India saw the company suspend its operations in Delhi after a driver was accused of raping a passenger. Such controversy is eroding passenger trust.

It's all about the data

But there is a way around this, correctly identifying its drivers by analysing the large amount of data the company collects will help it build trust with users and regulators as well as paving the way for identity intelligence.

At its best, Uber is a fantastic example of the sharing economy in action, demonstrating how technology can disrupt and displace traditional markets. However, the events in India are an important lesson in why businesses in the sharing economy must build trust.

The ultimate question for Uber and its users remain - how do you know the person driving you to your destination is someone you would wish to share a journey with – or is even qualified to drive? The answer is simple – you don't. Anyone can sign up for an account to be a driver, with little or no ID verification or background checks.

Driver identity checks would really help Uber restore the trust it is quickly losing with users and governing bodies, while giving the company greater credibility when it comes to compliance and user security.

But it's not just the customers that would benefit, Uber itself would gain better quality driver data, allowing it to add more value to its users. A strong data set also opens doors to advertising revenues.

Share, share, share

The recent independent review into the sharing economy, commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, stated the sharing economy has the potential to turn the UK into a nation of "microentrepreneurs".

PwC is also projecting that the UK sharing economy could be worth up to £9 billion a year by 2025. For this to happen peer-to-peer businesses must place consumer security and trust at the top of their agenda. Businesses must be able to verify and trust the people they are working with and be able to prove they are exactly who they say they are.

Uber has access to vast amounts of data that they can use to help them really understand who their drivers and the passengers are before each journey, proving it genuinely cares about the safety of its drivers and users. But let's not forget that Uber is also a business.

Understanding customer identity brings huge opportunities for revenue generation if it used responsibly and with a focus on relevance. As such Uber could do worse than to evaluate how its infrastructure and sign-up processes can be improved. Trust is a hard won asset; but it is at the very core of the sharing economy.

  • Richard Law is CEO of Chester-based GBGroup, the global leader in Identity Intelligence, which can accurately verify the identity of 3.2bn people, (over half of the world's population).
Desire Athow
Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website builders and web hosting when DHTML and frames were in vogue and started narrating about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium.