Uber champions its “industry-leading standards” for vetting its drivers. On its website, it describes its background checks as “often more rigorous” than those in the traditional taxi industry. But in statehouses across the country, Uber has fought against legislation requiring background checks as strong as those demanded of traditional taxis. Other ride-sharing companies like Lyft and Sidecar, Uber’s chief rivals, have also pushed against the laws, but supporters of stronger background checks say Uber has been by far the most aggressive.
In Colorado, the company helped persuade lawmakers to ease drivers’ background checks in a bill that legalized ride-sharing companies. In Illinois, after a lobbying push, Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed a bill that would have forced Uber to strengthen those checks. And in California, Uber and other companies like it helped kill a law that would have required drivers to undergo a background check by the state’s Justice Department, as is required of taxi drivers.
At the same time, the rigor of Uber’s checks has come into question. On Monday, Uber was banned in New Delhi after a driver was accused of raping a customer; New Delhi authorities said the driver, who was previously accused of raping another female passenger in 2011, was not properly vetted by Uber. “We don’t know if their background checks are good, bad or indifferent,” said Max Tyler, a Colorado state representative who is critical of Uber’s approach to rider safety. “In Colorado, the bill did not have an F.B.I. background check, no fingerprint check, none of the things taxi drivers must go through.” “Maybe Uber is doing a good job vetting drivers, maybe not,” he added.
Uber vigorously defended its process. “Uber is on track to complete more than two million background checks in 2014,” said Lane Kasselman, an Uber spokesman. “It’s a responsibility we take seriously.” Erin Simpson, a Lyft spokeswoman, said that safety was Lyft’s “top priority” and that its checks “far exceed what’s required for taxis and limos in nearly every municipality across the country.”