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Russian rideshares to detect sleepy drivers via facial recognition

Russian rideshare drivers are about to get an extra layer of scrutiny on their performance, and not in the form of customer reviews. Following a draft law by the State Duma, Yandex.Taxi vehicles will be fitted with facial recognition cameras to detect the telltale signs of tiredness, Bloomberg reports.

Yandex.Taxi – which is co-owned by Uber Technologies Inc. – will push the technology through a small box that attaches to the car windshield. It will keep a virtual eye on the drivers, looking out for things like blinking, yawning and the head slumping forward, via software that can track 68 facial points. If it concludes a driver is sleepy, they will be blocked from making further pickups until they’ve had a break.

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The software has already been trialed in 100 cars earlier in the year, and will be pushed out to “several thousand” cars soon.

This somewhat invasive approach comes after a surge of traffic accidents in Moscow over the last year, as crashes involving taxis jumped 25% in the capital. In all, there were 764 taxi-related accidents in Moscow in 2018, up from 541 in 2016 and 607 in 2017. Injuries rose from 672 to 900 over the same period, although deaths remained virtually unchanged with a low of 20 and a high of 23.

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As of last year, Yandex.Taxi is co-owned by Uber, which means that the plan is for driver-side apps to be integrated. In the US, Uber relies on a simpler technology to prevent sleepy drivers from taking the wheel: the driver’s app will simply stop working after 12 hours’ usage, with a six-hour cool-off period while the owner gets some sleep.

Is facial recognition a gross invasion of privacy or a necessary step to cut down on traffic accidents? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.

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