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Uber envisions a safer ride in 2015

Uber envisions a safer ride in 2015

The company is looking at using new driver screening methods, which may include polygraph tests

Uber, in 2015, is resolving to make its car hailing service safer, partly by enhancing its driver screening through the use of biometrics and voice verification.

"As we look to 2015, we will build new safety programs and intensify others," said Philip Cardenas, Uber's head of global safety, in a blog post published Wednesday.

The new efforts include increasing the number of cities and countries where background checks are conducted, and improving communications with local officials and law enforcement. Specifically, Uber is developing custom tools for biometric and voice verification screening in key areas where the company is active.

The company said it was exploring new ways to screen drivers globally. This may include incorporating polygraph exams to fill in the gaps in available data, on top of its existing screening for commercial licenses, Uber said.

Uber's smart to be making those changes. 2014 has shaped out to be a rough year for the company, as it faces widespread concerns over the safety of its service and its overall business practices. Uber said last week that it would be evaluating new screening options in India after a driver in Delhi allegedly raped a female passenger.

Uber did not give a precise timeline for when the changes would go into effect.

The company is also looking at giving riders a way to easily communicate with their loved ones and with the company during emergencies. Uber was recently criticized for upping its fares during the recent hostage situation in Sydney, Australia, giving away free rides after.

The company's review of its safety policies also comes following a lawsuit filed by regulators in Los Angeles and San Francisco that accuses Uber of misleading consumers over the quality of its background checks. The checks don't go far enough to screen out drivers who commit criminal offenses, the lawsuit alleges.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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