Uber reviews safety and security after alleged rape of woman by driver

The company that operates in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi told The National that it was looking to tighten procedures.

Uber taxi hire company says it is looking at ways to tighten its security measures. Antonie Robertson/The National
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DUBAI // Smartphone-based taxi hire company Uber is reviewing its safety and security checks following the alleged rape of a female passenger by a driver in India.

The company, launched in Dubai about 18 months ago, followed by Abu Dhabi earlier this year, connects licensed drivers with customers via their mobile phones and now exists in dozens of major cities around the world.

The company said it was looking at ways to tighten up its procedures, although it did not elaborate on how that would be done.

“We are looking to increase the type of security we currently have in place following the alleged incident in Delhi, but that is being done on an international basis,” said a Uber spokesman. “It is important to clarify that we don’t employ the drivers or own the cars, as that is done through existing limo companies based in the UAE.

“We haven’t had any issues in relation to safety regarding the drivers we have in the country.”

Drivers are rated by their passengers and if issues are raised regarding safety, then Uber investigates.

Potential drivers wishing to join the Uber network in Dubai must be employed with an existing limousine company that has all the documentation from the Roads and Transportation Authority.

“From next year, we will also be providing more training for drivers on professionalism and how to treat female passengers to reinforce the message,” said Carl Madi, Uber’s UAE operations manager.

Drivers wishing to sign up with the company must first apply online, have an approved licence and complete the RTA safety procedures.

“We do not employ people on an individual basis as that is not allowed in the UAE, so they must be working for a fully licensed commercial limo company in the country,” Mr Madi said.

The drivers that register are then invited for an interview at Uber’s offices, where they are tested on their road knowledge, as well as understanding of English.

Between 10 to 15 per cent of applicants fail at this stage, said Mr Madi.

Uber then verifies that the drivers have the correct documentation and they are then given a 45-minute training programme in their first language, where they are taught how to operate under the Uber system.

A further 10 to 15 per cent do not make it past this phase.

“In terms of the cars we use, they are all new or nearly new, so that means since 2013,” said Mr Madi.

“Because we don’t own any vehicles, the cars are covered by the commercial insurance provided by the driver’s parent company and, as such, maintenance is carried out by the limo companies.

“For our part, we inspect the cars to make sure they are clean and well presented,” said Mr Madi.

“The only incidents we have had since we began operations related to a flat tyre and a slightly noisy engine, which we looked into.”

No one from the RTA was available for comment.