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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Two incidents involving women trying to get a ride using a ride sharing app have ended tragically in the past week. Police in Massachusetts are investigating the alleged rape of a female passenger and the University of South Carolina is mourning the death of a student who thought she was getting into an Uber.
Although popular ride sharing app’s like Uber and Lyft have many built in safety mechanisms, a Pittsburgh Uber driver says there are still many reasons to proceed with caution.
Not taking a ride with a stranger is practical advice you grow up hearing, but now it’s something many do frequently.
Ulysses Coto is a father of six with over 14,000 trips under his belt and a five star rating. Coto says both driver and passenger must take responsibility to verify one another’s identities match the information on the app, to include the passengers account name and the name of the driver, their face, license plate and car description.
“These cars are the biggest things that people have to look out for and if it’s on the app and they can see a larger picture of the car, they can verify that’s their car,” Coto said.
On Friday, a University of South Carolina student reportedly ordered an Uber as she left friends at the end of the night. The car she climbed into, authorities think, the student may have mistakenly thought was an Uber, but it wasn’t. the USC student never made it home and was later found dead.
Coro says although the student never climbed into an Uber, the tragedy highlights problems in the ride sharing passenger/driver verification.
For instance Coto says is “the person arriving is the correct car, but it’s the incorrect driver.”
“There’s been loopholes in other states where people who look similar to someone will try and manipulate the system,” Coto said
As for the Uber passenger Coto says paying attention and asking questions is key.
“Every car up here could have an Uber symbol, how would you know it’s your car, you have to verify, you have to check the license plate, you have to check the driver,” Coto added.
Coto says it happened to him recently on a pickup downtown.
“Her and her friend got in the wrong car, I called them after two minutes she said she was in an Uber, I said if you were in the correct Uber, you’d be in my car.”
As for the Light up Uber symbols Coto says anyone can buy them.
“This Uber is to alleviate the hitchhiker situation from certified drivers and accredited passengers who have an account,” he said.
Drivers for Uber must pass both a driving and criminal background check. Uber has also implemented random driver photo verification checks. Uber did not reposed to any further questions tonight.