Verifone’s Biometric Finger Scanner Could Stop Taxi Hijackings

Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Verifone Systems, one of the U.S.’s largest makers of taxi meters, is giving the cab a 21st-century makeover. The company is preparing to release a new in-car system this year with a number of upgrades, including a biometric finger scanner that checks the identity of the driver at the start of every shift.

“When you think about the technology before, it was never part of the business to design the user experience,” Jason Gross, global head of product and marketing at Verifone, told The Verge in a report published Monday. “It was a box with a bunch of buttons on it. This gives us an opportunity to make it beautiful.”

The scanner, placed next to the steering wheel, complements a number of other security upgrades. A new panic button gives drivers and customers added peace of mind, while security cameras could help police forces identify criminals after incidents have occurred.

The high-tech system is technically two distinct products. The passenger-facing system, known as “Ryde,” will provide customers with wifi, USB charging, and a 10-inch touchscreen for running apps. The driver-facing system, “Dash,” introduces a new seven-inch touchscreen to replace the fare meters of old.

It’s a major upgrade for an industry that has faced heavy competition from ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. The former has been focusing on improving its technical capabilities, slowly building out its self-driving fleet that could potentially serve major cities and provide an alternative to human-based drivers. Replacing the human driver would mean fingerprint-scanning traditional cars could be obsolete before a wider rollout.

An Uber driverless Ford Fusion drives down Smallman Street on September, 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Getty Images / Jeff Swensen

Verifone has tested the driver-facing components in New Orleans, Chicago, and Boston, and production is expected to increase next year. Uber may be occupied with driverless vehicles and long-term dreams of flying machines, but these are a long way off. Verifone’s efforts may bring new life to a service many simply tolerate rather than enjoy, giving the yellow cab a fighting chance against Uber and the like. And hey, USB chargers are handy, right?