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Uber insists its ride service is safe

row of colorful car hoods
User Zelda Richardson
Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg
More cars are going to buyers with less-than-stellar credit.

Authorities have charged Uber driver Jason Brian Dalton with six counts of murder, two counts of assault with intent to commit murder, and eight firearms violations after a shooting spree in Kalamazoo Saturday.

Gunning down victims at random, Dalton allegedly drove from one target to another for nearly five hours. Dalton apparently picked up passengers in between the shootings.

The accused shooter’s identifier in much of the news coverage is “an Uber driver,” putting the ride service and its security practices in the public’s critical eye.

According to the company’s website,Uber driver screenings include a review of the driver’s motor vehicle records and a search through criminal records at county, state, and federal levels.

The prescreening for Uber's potential drivers is performed by Checkr, a service that has been nationally accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners.

However, advocacy campaigns like “Who’s Driving You,” a public safety campaign funded by the taxi industry, continue to find fault with the safety precautions of app-based taxi services.

According to a report on NPR's All Tech Considered, the Taxicab, Limousine, and Paratransit Association continues to point to the key difference between basic taxi driver background checks versus those used by companies like Uber: “Taxi and limo companies rely on fingerprints submitted to law enforcement, as opposed to third-party checks based only on a name,” the report said.

David Sutton, a spokesman for the "Who's Driving You" campaign, told CBS MoneyWatch that the Kalamazoo case highlights the need for a change:

“An HR person from Uber should be meeting with prospective drivers before allowing them to drive,” said Sutton.  

Edward Davis, an Uber safety advisory board member, also spoke to CBS MoneyWatch. He said “the issue isn’t about background checks, given that Dalton reportedly didn’t have a criminal background, but about the availability of guns and mental illness.”

Uber's chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, responded to the wave of media attention in a public statement posted on the company’s website.

“The perpetrator had no criminal record, and if there is nothing on someone’s criminal record, then no background check is going to raise a flag. As this case has shown, past behavior may not accurately predict how people may behave in the future.”

Sullivan said Uber does not plan to change its screening processes for drivers as a result of the Kalamazoo shootings.

Uber safety board members also argue that law enforcement fingerprint checks are "no safer or more sophisticated than the current screening systems that Uber has in place."

Uber officials point to the GPS tracking and driver transparency that its app provides. It also asks its users to look at the larger scope of the company's mission, rather than allowing the actions of one man to tarnish its reputation. 

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