Excerpted from a Digital Trends blog by Bruce Brown
Starting soon, Uber says it will run criminal background and driver history checks every year for all of its drivers.
Uber emailed riders about three new safety programs with the subject line, “Your safety is our priority.” The three new safety initiatives include the company’s commitment to ramped up driver screening, plus the Trusted Contacts ride-detail sharing, and 911 access from the Uber app.
Uber states that since 2009 millions of drivers have passed background and driving record screenings. According to Uber’s statement on stricter driver screening in the email sent to users, “Everyone driving with Uber in the U.S. must first pass a criminal and driving history check. Starting this year, we’ll proactively rerun those checks annually.”
In 2016, Uber agreed to pay $10 million to settle a lawsuit involving driver background checks in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In the 2014 lawsuit, San Francisco district attorney George Gascón and Los Angeles district attorney Jackie Lacey faulted Uber’s background checks.
The district attorneys claimed the procedure missed criminal records for 25 Uber applicants in the two cities in part because the background checks covered only the seven preceding years. The screening also ignored a database of about 30,000 registered sex offenders, the lawsuit claimed.
At the time, an Uber spokesperson said, “We’re glad to put this case behind us and excited to redouble our efforts serving riders and drivers across the state of California.”
The new annual driver screening program will apply to all Uber drivers nationwide.
Uber’s Trusted Contacts lets you set reminders to share trip details with up to five friends and family members. While you are on the ride, your designated contacts will be able to track your location in real time on a map. They will also know when you have arrived at your location. Assuming you have configured the Trusted Contacts feature ahead of time, you will be able to turn it on with a single tap on the Uber app screen.
Ubers’s new 911 feature makes the call with a single tap in Uber’s app. The feature displays your current location and trip details so you can tell the operator. Because not all 911 systems are alike, Uber is working with RapidSOS’ pilot programs in six U.S. cities where the app will automatically share the rider’s name and the car’s make, model, color, license plate number, and exact location.
The email Uber sent users includes multiple links to its Moving Forward website page, on which it states, “We’re listening to riders and drivers, changing our company from within, and working with cities to improve transportation.”