Following an incident in which one of its drivers allegedly raped a female passenger in New Delhi, ride-hailing company Uber has announced additional safety measures it is taking in India. Those precautions were announced ahead of a hearing that the local Transport Department will be having on Monday to determine whether Uber and other mobile transportation services should be allowed to operate there.
Last month, Uber came under scrutiny in New Delhi after a driver for the service was arrested and charged with rape. While the company said it was cooperating with local authorities following the incident, its service was quickly banned by the local government, along with other similar apps. As a result, Uber suspended its service there while reviewing its operations in the market.
Uber has long touted its trust and safety features, which typically include background and driver checks, as well as transparency into driver and passenger accounts and a two-sided rating system. But as others have pointed out, it’s not enough for Uber to rely simply on government records to ensure the driving and criminal records of its drivers are clean in some international markets. For instance, as Sriram Krishnan wrote after the incident in New Delhi, “Anyone who has spent any amount of time in India would know that background checks just don’t work and a certificate from the cops is just paperwork.”
In response, Uber has laid out additional measures it is taking to ensure passenger safety in the India market. That includes having all of its drivers reviewed again to ensure they have “authentic and valid police verification,” as well as hiring local “safety exerts” to detect fraud and to develop more effective screening methods for its drivers.
In addition to more advanced driver screening, Uber also says it is rolling out a local incident response team to resolve critical issues there. It is also adding a ShareMyETA button to the app, rolling it out first in India to allow passengers to send trip details to loved ones.
The measures were announced ahead of a hearing that the Delhi Transportation Department is holding on Monday to determine whether the service can resume in that market, according to the blog post.
Of course, Delhi is just one market where Uber is facing challenges from the local government. It recently come under fire in Portland, where it agreed to suspend service for three months while the legality of ride-sharing services are reviewed there. Regulators in Taiwan and Chinese city Chongqing are also reviewing the legality of its service, and in South Korea Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was indicted on charges of operating the service illegally in that market.
Meanwhile, the company has faced trust and safety concerns following a series of incidents in other markets. A driver for Uber in Boston was also charged with rape earlier this month. That incident follows the beating of an Uber passenger with a hammer in San Francisco, and an off-duty Uber driver being charged with vehicular manslaughter after striking and killing a six-year old child last year.
Those incidents, combined with Uber’s fast rate of hiring — CEO Kalanick said the company was creating 50,000 jobs a month globally in September — have led some regulators to look more closely into the company’s screening and on-boarding processes. Earlier this month, the district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles filed suit against the company for claims it made about the quality of its background checks.
As a result, Uber has committed to investing more in customer safety around the world. But some of those investments — most prominently its ShareMyETA button — will roll out in India first.