Uber will start conducting annual background checks on its drivers and proactively monitor criminal records.
The changes come as the ride-hailing giant desperately tries to mend its public image after a series of controversies under founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick steered it off course. New CEO Dara Khosrowshashi claims the annual background checks weren’t done in an attempt to clean up Uber’s image and will be rerun “regardless of whether there is a legal obligation to do so.”
If a notice is received about a new violation from a driver, Uber said will investigate the incident and consider disqualifying information from a public record, like a new and pending charge for a DUI, to ensure drivers can continue to work.
According to Uber’s website, you generally need the following to pass a background check:
At least one year U.S. licensing history (if under 23 years old, must have at least three years licensing history)
A valid driver’s license and Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) that shows:
No major moving violations, such as DUIs or reckless driving, within the last seven years
No more than three minor moving violations in the past three years, such as speeding tickets or failure to obey traffic laws
A criminal record that does not include a conviction for a felony, violent crime, or sexual offense within the last seven years, among other things such as a registration on the U.S. Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public website.
“The first thing that we want to do is really change Uber’s substance, and the image may follow,” Khosrowshashi said in an interview with the Associated Press. “The announcements that we’re making are just a step along the way of making Uber fundamentally safer for drivers and riders.”
The move is one of several announcements made by Uber on Thursday that will fundamentally change how drivers and riders use its app. Other important additions include a button in the app’s new “safety center” to quickly contact 911 in case of an emergency, and tools that make it easier for riders to share their location with up to five “trusted contacts.”
What’s more, Uber will pilot 911 integration with local emergency authorities so first responders can more quickly arrive at the precise location of those in danger. A 2014 study conducted by the Federal Communications Commission determined 10,000 lives could be saved every year if first responders met a 911 caller one minute sooner.
Recent incidents have given both drivers and riders reason to be suspicious about the safety of the world’s largest ride-hailing company. Last year it was fined $8.9 million for letting people with serious criminal offenses operate as drivers. In another high-profile incident, Uber executives were caught discrediting a woman who had been raped by a driver. The company was also critized in 2014 after it was discovered a driver in India who raped a passenger had four other criminal cases. Most recently, a woman in Arizona was killed after being struck by a self-driving Uber.
“We were not perfect,” Khosrowshahi said in an interview on Today. “Anytime you’re growing as fast as we were growing… but that’s not an excuse, and sometimes you get things wrong. But our intent now is to get things right.”