The San Francisco-based transportation and taxi company Uber is planning to implement to biometrics and voice verification in its background screening process to promote a safer service. News of this policy change comes in the wake of several incidents, including sexual assault cases in India and Boston.
Founded by entrepreneurs Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp under the name “UberCab” in 2009, Uber takes a different approach from traditional taxi services with its focus on a smartphone application. When a client needs a ride, he or she can open the app to request a pickup from one of Uber’s drivers. To put the popularity of this service into perspective, Uber now operates in 53 countries and 200 cities worldwide and boasts a valuation of approximately $40 billion.
But critics claim that Uber isn’t doing enough to protect its customers. Traditional taxi services require drivers to go through a strict training program, as well as a background screening process. While Uber claims to screen all of its drivers, the requirements fall short of city-regulated taxi services. With more and more people speaking out against the smartphone-based taxi service, several countries have already banned Uber, including Thailand, France and Spain. Uber is hoping to change this, however, by implementing new biometrics and voice verification technology.
“We are initiating research & development on biometrics and voice verification to build custom tools for enhanced driver screening. We are also investing in ways to provide riders the instant ability to communicate with us and their loved ones in the event of an emergency, building on top of our ShareMyETA feature,” wrote Uber in a recent blog post.
So, what kind of changes can we expect to see with Uber in the upcoming months? The statement Uber posted on its blog is somewhat vague, considering that biometrics refers to the analysis and measurement of any bodily characteristic (DNA, fingerprints, eye, voice, facial recognition, hand movement, etc.). The most plausible scenario is that Uber will implement fingerprint scanning to verify the identify of its drivers. For instance, drivers may soon be required to scan their finger via the Uber app before they are allowed to accept customers.
Uber currently screens drivers against the following:
- County courthouse records (7 years for each county of residence)
- Federal courthouse records (7 years)
- National criminal database
- National sex offender registry
- Social security trace
- Motor vehicle records (past and current)
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