Uber emails customers to spell out safety initiatives

Amid numerous sexual assault cases involving its drivers, Uber reached out to customers on Wednesday to explain what it is doing to make its service safer.

SAN FRANCISCO: Uber tried to get in front of snowballing safety concerns about its car service on Wednesday with a blog post penned by its global safety lead that it proactively sent to customers in an email blast.

In the post, entitled "Uber’s commitment to safety," head of global safety Philip Cardenas acknowledged that the company has "more work to do, and we will do it." It was not immediately clear if the email was meant for members of the media or customers in general.

Cardenas, the company’s first global safety chief, according to media reports, wrote, "We are reminded by the recent tragic event in India that best-in-class safety must be a constant quest."

An Uber driver in New Delhi was accused of raping a female passenger earlier this month, leading to city officials banning Uber and similar app-enabled ride-sharing services.

A driver in Massachusetts was arraigned on Wednesday on charges including rape, kidnapping, and assault and battery for an alleged incident on December 6. He pleaded not guilty.

The company was also criticized earlier this week after its "surge pricing" went info effect in Sydney, Australia, during the hostage crisis in the city's central business district.

Cardenas, who has military experience and said he came to Uber "after building a first-of-its-kind safety program at Airbnb," explained how the company is trying to ramp up security through technology, background checks, and communications with appropriate leaders.

"To that end, in November, Uber’s safety team began a global review to assess the areas where greater investment is required. As we look to 2015, we will build new safety programs and intensify others," he wrote. Cardenas outlined specific means to that end: technology, background checks, service and support, and advisory and training partnerships.

Though the process differs by country, Uber is pledging to increase its emphasis on background checks, possibly "adding our own processes on top of existing screening for commercial licenses – which we are undertaking in India," he wrote.  

An Uber representative did not comment further when reached by email.

In August, the car-hailing service appointed David Plouffe, the former manager of the Obama for America campaign, as SVP of policy and strategy.

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