US lawmakers ask Uber, Lyft and Sidecar to use biometrics
10 March 2015 11:30 GMT

US state-regulated taxi cab companies are already required to use fingerprint-based background checks.

Mobile taxi apps firms such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar should use fingerprint checks to verify the backgrounds of their taxi drivers, according to eight members of US Congress.

The call comes following controversies involving alleged assaults by drivers involving mobile taxi firms in the US and in India, where a driver was accused of raping a passenger.

"While we understand your companies conduct private background checks when vetting potential drivers, you should take additional steps to increase the safety of your customers," the eight Democratic representatives wrote in identical letters to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Lyft CEO Logan Green and Sunil Paul, CEO of Sidecar, citing reports of incidents in Boston, Los Angeles, District of Columbia, Chicago and San Francisco.

Currently, state-regulated taxi cab companies are already required to use fingerprint-based background checks.

Uber announced last December that it will use biometrics used to verify drivers’ identities following a string of controversies involving alleged assaults by its drivers.

In the United States, Uber’s background-verification process already includes checks of court records going back seven years; a multi-state criminal database; and the National Sex Offender Registry, according to Uber policy.

Phillip Cardenas, the company’s global safety head, wrote in a company blog in December that the firm’s Safety Product Team was initiating research and development on biometrics and voice verification to build custom tools for enhanced driver screening.

Following the outcry in India, nationwide firm Meru Cabs revealed plans to launch mobile biometric verification of drivers’ identities. Meru Cabs has been able to deploy a simple app on Android phone integrated to a fingerprint scanner or an iris scanner which connects to the Aadhaar database with an open API to verify if the Aadhaar number belongs to the same person, according to the firm.

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