Following a recent incident in India where an Uber driver was accused of raping a passenger, there’s been increasing scrutiny of the ride-hailing service’s background check procedures for hiring new drivers. In a bid to get on top of the situation and provide some balance to the discussion, the company this week moved to reassure users and regulators around the world that it’s serious about safety.
Phillip Cardenas, head of global safety at Uber, took to the company’s blog this week to explain how it intends to improve its driver selection process to reduce the chances of an Uber ride taking a wrong turn, so to speak.
It’s inevitable that with so many drivers joining Uber’s ranks in the 260 or so cities in which it operates, the occasional criminal-minded employee will slip through the net. However, aware that the company can’t survive unless passengers have a high level of trust in the driver selection process, Cardenas on Wednesday announced plans for new safety procedures.
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These include “research and development on biometrics and voice verification…for enhanced driver screening” as well as the implementation of Safety Incident Response Teams charged with providing immediate and around-the-clock support in the event of a driver-related incident.
Lie detector tests
Cardenas even talks of “polygraph exams that fill gaps in available data” and of including its own processes alongside existing screening for commercial licenses.
Finally, it plans to work with groups with expert knowledge in areas such as women’s safety, conflict resolution, and road safety.
For some onlookers, the plans will sound somewhat vague, with their effectiveness at this stage uncertain. In addition, Cardenas declines to offer any details on when exactly the new procedures might be implemented. However, the company knows it has to make real and meaningful changes at the earliest opportunity to give it a better chance of singling out drivers that could otherwise land it with more negative headlines.
Every Uber ride is currently traced by GPS, with the service using a two-way rating system so that good and not-so-good experiences are noted, with Uber able to take action against poorly performing drivers.
The Uber app also shows a driver’s photo, license plate number, and vehicle type, allowing the passenger to check before entering the vehicle that the driver is indeed the one they were expecting.
Cardenas notes in his blog post that Uber’s existing “multi-layered” background checks have seen applications from “tens of thousands” of drivers turned down.