All new Uber drivers in American markets will now need to undergo federal and county background checks, the private cab and ridesharing network announced in a blog post yesterday. The new checks will also be run on current Uber drivers who have not yet been cleared against federal and county criminal databases
The new checks will be introduced in addition to Uber's existing policies for all US drivers. Of Uber's five services, four — UberBLACK, UberTAXI, UberSUV, and UberLUX — are staffed by full-time employees. Previously, the company relied on state and local jurisdictions to look into the history of such drivers. The fifth, UberX, offers an ad-hoc ridesharing model where passengers are connected with independent drivers contracted to Uber. These drivers were previously only subjected to independent screening by external company Hirease, against the multi-state criminal database.
Uber says its existing background checks for UberX drivers were fallible
But Uber says the multi-state criminal database is fallible when it comes to identifying criminal records. It says that although many counties in the US provide records to state authorities, "some counties do not participate in this reporting the way [Uber and its] users expect they should." The company also notes that a check of the multi-state database can sometimes miss records appearing in the federal database. Uber calls such a gap "a rare occurrence," but says the situation is "unacceptable all the same."
The new measures come soon after Travis Kalanick, Uber's CEO, spoke to The New York Times about Uber's service. Kalanick said his company worked its "butts off to go "above and beyond what is expected even by the regulators, including insurance, background checks." But the novelty of Uber's ridesharing model means it exists in something of a legal gray area. On New Year's Eve, one of its contracted UberX drivers hit and killed a six-year-old child. The company first denied the driver was not working for Uber, before clarifying its statement to say the driver in question was "not providing services on the Uber system during the time of the accident."