Uber tightens driver background checks

Uber Express Pool competes with the city bus
Uber Express Pool competes with the city bus

Uber is tightening background checks for its drivers.

In a blog post, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said Uber will run background checks on drivers each year.

The company previously didn't have a uniformed policy on rerunning criminal background checks. However, Uber told CNN earlier this year it started running screenings on drivers every two years in mid-2017.

"We can do more to ensure drivers continue to meet our standards on an ongoing basis, long after they take their first trip," Khosrowshahi wrote in the blog post.

The company is also investing in technology that can identify new criminal offenses via public records or pending DUI charges as they happen. The tech will flag Uber to investigate and review a driver's standing with the company.

Uber, which launched in 2010, is the most valuable privately held tech startup in the world and provides 15 million rides to users worldwide every day. But its drivers have been accused of sexually harassing passengers, and the company is facing a possible class action lawsuit filed by women who say Uber drivers raped, assaulted, or kidnapped them.

Related: Lawyer to Uber: Turn over data on rape, assault reports from riders

Uber conducts its background checks using a startup called Checkr, which also separately announced on Thursday it raised $100 million in new funding. In a press release, Checkr also named Lyft, Uber's biggest US competitor, as a customer.

Checkr's background checks typically screen potential Uber drivers' records within the past seven years. Driver candidates cannot have a conviction for a felony, violent crime or sexual offenses, or a registration on the US Department of Justice National Sex Offender public website.

Uber and Lyft drivers are fingerprinted in New York because they are subject to the same standards as cab drivers. The company has mostly shunned the idea of adopting the standards for all its drivers.

On Thursday, it said it will rerun criminal and motor vehicle checks annually using Checkr even if it is not legally required to do so. Uber pays for the cost of the repeat background checks, a spokesperson said.

Uber has not named the company providing the technology that it will use to flag offenses in real time.

Khosrowshahi also announced that former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will join Uber's Safety Advisory Board as chairman.

He also said the company plans to roll out a dedicated "safety center" within the Uber app where riders can designate contacts that they want to share trip details with while they ride.

It will also add an emergency button to call 911 from inside the app. The button will show a passenger's location to tell police in an emergency.

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