Online taxi service Uber Technologies Inc, which had a driver accused of rape in New Delhi, said it was exploring adding new methods to verify drivers’ credentials and make its service safer.
Uber has started research and development on biometrics and voice verification to build tools for enhanced driver screening, Phillip Cardenas, the company’s global safety head, wrote in a blog.
The start-up was also exploring new ways to screen drivers, including polygraph tests and adding its own processes on top of commercial license verifications.
“Of course, no background check can predict future behavior and no technology can yet fully prevent bad actions, but our responsibility is to leverage every smart tool at our disposal,” Cardenas said.
In the US, Uber’s background-verification process includes checks of court records going back seven years; a multistate criminal database; and the US National Sex Offender Registry, according to Uber policy posted on its Web site. Activities that disqualify potential drivers include sexual offenses, violent crimes and gun-related infractions.
The San Francisco-based firm also said it was building safety incident response teams to provide round-the-clock support.
Uber has been dogged by controversy surrounding its aggressive approach to local governments and traditional taxi services. France, Spain and Thailand have banned some or all Uber services. The company’s services have also been banned in New Delhi following the rape allegation.
Meanwhile, Uber has taken its battle for acceptance in Europe to Brussels with a complaint against a French law, the first of what could become a series of challenges to EU member states reluctant to open their markets to the online taxi-booking service.
Uber says the law discriminates against private-hire vehicles, which it uses, by not allowing consumers to see the location of such cars online — a service it says is available for regular taxis.
“We are looking at existing EU law to defend internal markets,” Mark MacGann, Uber’s head of public policy in Europe, Middle East and Africa, said in an interview. “What we find is that market is in fact very fragmented.”
The EU Commission said it had received Uber’s complaint and was assessing whether, as Uber believes, France should have notified it of the new law.
A spokeswoman said there was no EU regulation on such services.
“So it becomes a national matter, but one does not operate in a complete vacuum and one needs to obey internal market rules,” she said.
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