Uber plans to use biometrics and ‘scientific analysis’ to screen drivers

Uber enables users to hail a ride through a mobile app.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

Uber, recently sued for allegedly making false claims about the safety of its ride-hailing service, Wednesday announced it had started a “global review” of its safety measures in November and says it plans to roll out new safety programs in 2015. But it’s unclear what those programs will be.

In a blog post titled “Our Commitment to Safety” and signed by Uber safety head Phillip Cardenas, the company said it would “build new safety programs and intensify others.” Among the initiatives mentioned are “research and development on biometrics and voice verification to build custom tools for enhanced driver screening,” and “using scientific analysis and technology to find solutions” to improve driver background checks.

When reached for comment about what the “scientific analysis” and “biometrics” technology entails, and whether the new safety procedures would include fingerprinting drivers, an Uber spokesperson referred The Times to Cardenas’ blog post.

This month, the Los Angeles and San Francisco district attorneys filed lawsuits against the ride-hailing company, contending it misleads consumers about the service’s safety. San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon accused Uber of making false statements about how it uses an “industry-leading background check process” when it does not fingerprint its drivers. The company’s criminal checks are thus “completely worthless,” he said.


It is unclear whether Uber’s new safety measures will satisfy regulators, or if they will resemble the taxicab industry’s stringent safety regulations, which require that all drivers undergo criminal background checks that use fingerprinting.

A spokesperson for the San Francisco district attorney’s office said litigation is ongoing.

Twitter: @traceylien