Updated: May 12, 2016
Below is a detailed overview of our safety practices in California, including our approach to screening drivers. We believe that Uber is a safe, reliable way to get from A to B. Our technology makes it possible to focus on safety for riders and driver-partners before, during and after a trip. That said, no means of transportation can ever be 100% safe. Accidents and incidents will always happen. And when it comes to screening, every system has its flaws. That’s partly because past behavior may not accurately predict how people will behave in the future, but also due to the fact that no system in the U.S has a one hundred percent accurate record of the past. That’s why we continue to invest in new technologies that help keep riders and drivers safe before, during, and after every ride.
An Overview of Safety at Uber
Before getting in the car
- No more street hails or waiting outside to find a ride. You can start the Uber app from anywhere and wait safely for your car to arrive. That means no standing on the street to hail a cab or struggling to find the nearest bus stop late at night.
- Trips are no longer anonymous. When a driver accepts your request, you see his or her first name, rating, photo, and license plate number. In addition, the driver can see your first name and rating. If there is any confusion around pick-up details, you can contact the driver—and vice versa—through the app without sharing your personal information.
During the ride
- Never get lost. You can see the route on the map in the app. The location is clearly marked so you know where you are on your journey—and if you are on the right route.
- Share your ETA and location. You can easily share your ride details, including the specific route and estimated time of arrival, with friends or family for extra peace of mind. They’ll receive a link where they can see in real time the name and photo of the driver, the vehicle, and where you are on the map until you arrive at your destination—and they can do all of this without having to download the Uber app themselves.
- No need for cash. Since Uber allows for seamless cashless transactions, the conflicts that can come from arguments about fares or a lack of money to pay are significantly reduced. This also lowers the risk of robbery, which is particularly good for drivers because carrying large quantities of cash can make them a target.
After the ride
- Feedback and ratings after every trip. After every ride, you and your driver are asked to rate each other and provide feedback. Our safety team reviews this information and investigates any issues.
- 24/7 Support. Our customer support team is ready to respond to any inquiries 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Incident Response. We have a dedicated Incident Response Team to answer any more urgent issues. We also have a team of former law enforcement professionals who are on call to work with police to respond to urgent needs and walk them through how we can assist in an investigation. Click here for more information about how we work with law enforcement officials.
Behind the scenes
- Contact without providing personal information. While riders and drivers are able to contact each other through the app, they won’t actually see each other’s real phone numbers. Uber uses technology that makes the phone numbers of riders and drivers anonymous so they do not have one another’s contact details going forward.
- Always on the map. Accountability is one of the things that makes riders feel safe. Both riders and drivers know that trips are tracked using GPS, which creates both accountability and a strong incentive for good behavior.
- Pre-screening drivers. All drivers must undergo a screening process before they can use the Uber app.
Of course, holding drivers and riders accountable for their behavior is important for everyone’s safety. That’s why driver-partners using the Uber platform undergo a pre-screening process. Furthermore, riders and drivers with whom others have consistently had a very bad experience, or who have been involved in a serious safety incident while on the platform, will lose access to Uber.
In this section, we explain how driver screenings work at Uber, the data sources available to do this screening, as well as some of the challenges companies face when using these data sources for pre-screening. Because the specifics can vary state-to-state based on legal requirements, we specifically describe Uber’s approach to driver pre-screening in California.
Every person who wants to drive with Uber in California is required to undergo a pre-screening process. The screening, which looks back seven years, is performed on our behalf by Checkr, a third-party background check provider that is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners.
Potential drivers must provide detailed information, including their full name, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number, a copy of their driver’s license, vehicle registration, insurance, and proof of a completed vehicle inspection. Individuals who pass the driving history screen then undergo a national, state, and local-level criminal history check that screens a series of national, state, and local databases including the US Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public Website,* the PACER database, and several different databases used to identify suspected terrorists. Upon identifying a potential criminal record, Checkr sends an individual to review the record in-person at the relevant courthouse or, if possible, pulls the record electronically. Verifying potential criminal records at the source—the courthouse records—helps ensure that we are checking the most up-to-date records.
The purpose of these pre-screenings is to identify offenses and other information that may disqualify potential drivers from using Uber. The following chart explains the criteria applied when reviewing a potential driver’s driving and criminal history—this is not an exhaustive list, but covers the primary criteria that, along with any other disqualifying criteria required by law, lead to disqualification.
Other for-hire transportation services in California
The background check rules for limousine companies (transportation charter party or TCP license holders) operating in California are different from both taxis and companies like Uber. The CPUC does not require criminal background checks for drivers who obtain a TCP license for traditional black car transportation services.
Taxi drivers in most large cities in California undergo a background check using Live Scan, which digitally scans an individual’s fingerprints and then runs them through FBI and state databases looking for a match.
Fingerprint-based background checks have gaps that reduce their efficacy. For example:
- The FBI is not a complete source of all criminal history records in the United States. According to the FBI website, its Criminal Justice Information System may lack dispositional data (i.e. whether an arrest resulted in a conviction) and/or arrest records that are maintained only at the state level.
- State DOJ databases also vary widely in their level of staying up-to-date. In 2013, the Washington Post reported that the Justice Department found that in half the states, as many as two in five records were missing final outcomes. 27 states reported a backlog of disposition data. Transmitting the information from courts to state records agencies can take from less than a day in Delaware to 555 days in Kansas.
- Fingerprint-based checks are designed to flag arrests — but they will not flag arrests made where a fingerprint was not taken. For example, in Washington State thousands of criminal records are missing because of a failure to collect fingerprints during an arrest.
- Not everyone has readable fingerprints – two percent of Americans do not have readable fingerprints, and the percentage increases among populations with low skin elasticity or smoothed print edges such as older individuals, physical laborers, and people with skin disease. People who cannot do a fingerprint check will undergo a name-based check, using their name, date of birth, and SSN – the same information required for Uber’s screening.
In addition, the incomplete nature of fingerprint-based background checks can have discriminatory implications. When records are incomplete or inaccurate, people who were never charged or convicted of a crime are more likely to be precluded from work opportunities. A 2013 NELP report shows that 600,000 Americans may be unfairly kept from a job due to faulty FBI records. A 2010 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that one-third of felony arrests do not result in a conviction.
In particular, communities of color are disproportionately impacted because they are arrested at a higher rate. Across the US, at least 70 police departments arrest African-Americans at ten times the rate of Caucasians. Groups like the the Greenlining Institute have publicly spoken out about how a fingerprint requirement could discriminate people of color who want to drive with transportation network companies like Uber.
Put simply, every system of background checks that is available today has its flaws. But we believe that the procedures used by Uber and other TNCs stack up well against the alternatives in terms of safety—while not disadvantaging people who may have been arrested but never charged or convicted.
* The sex offender registration information on the National Sex Offender Public Website is retrieved from individual state databases. In California, pursuant to Penal Code § 290.46, the information publicly available does not include all registered sex offenders, and may not include all out-of-state sex offenders, depending on variations in state law.