Congress calls on ride-hailing companies to improve safety

Congress calls on ride-hailing companies to improve safety (Photo: Pixabay via MGN Online)

Snubbed by Uber and Lyft, a House committee went ahead with its hearing Wednesday on safety and employment issues plaguing ride-hailing companies.

Members of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure called on Uber and Lyft to clean up their act, even though neither company sent representatives to the hearing. They noted gaps in the way both companies screen their drivers. For instance, neither collects fingerprints from drivers as part of their background checks.

"It's woefully inadequate, leaving passengers vulnerable and at risk of harassment or assault," said Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, adding the hearing should serve as a wake-up call to ride-hailing companies that their days of operating with little oversight are over.

The committee introduced a bill that aims to close some gaps, helping riders confirm their drivers are legitimate. For instance, the bill would require drivers to have digital QR codes a rider could scan with a smartphone. It also would prevent anyone but the ride-hailing companies from selling Uber and Lyft signs for drivers to display in their car windows.

The bill was inspired by college student Sami Josephson who was kidnapped and murdered after getting into a car she thought was her Uber ride.

Lyft said it supports increasing penalties for anyone impersonating a rideshare driver or attempting to sell Lyft signs.

"We share lawmakers' commitment to safety," said Lyft spokeswoman Campbell Matthews in an email.

Uber said it has been working closely with the committee since its initial outreach in September and will continue to work with lawmakers and law enforcement to focus on the most effective measures to put safety first.