Uber Says Driver Suspected of Killing Six Had Clean Record and 4.7 Rating
Uber Technologies Inc. defended its vetting of drivers after police in Kalamazoo, Michigan, said a man accused of killing six people may have picked up passengers in between incidents.
Jason Brian Dalton, 45, was arrested on Sunday on suspicion of carrying out the attack. Dalton had never committed a crime before and had a driver rating of 4.73 out of 5 before the day of the shooting, Uber said on a conference call with reporters. Dalton had picked up more than 100 passengers since his Uber application was approved on Jan. 25.
"Overall, his rating was good," said Uber Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan. "No background check process would have made a difference in this case because the person had no criminal history."
Uber is facing scrutiny over whether the company could have done more to help stop the shooting spree, which occurred over several hours late Saturday. The company has faced similar blowback in the past when other drivers have committed crimes. In January, an Uber driver in London was sentenced to 18 months in jail after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman who was getting into his car.
California prosecutors have said Uber's background checks have missed thieves, burglars, a kidnapper and a convicted murderer. The company's procedures don't rely on a federal fingerprint database. Instead, Uber hires a company to look through seven years of court records.
Uber said it was cooperating with police in Michigan and referred questions about details of the case to the authorities. With Uber facilitating more than 3 million rides a day, the number of drivers who could potentially break the law is growing. In this case, Uber said there wasn't much it could have done differently because of the lack of a criminal record.
"In many ways, this focus on Uber is a distraction from the availability of guns and people who shouldn't have such easy access to them," said Margaret Richardson, a member of Uber's safety advisory board and former chief of staff to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. "This certainly could be any corporation, and it's every corporation's worst nightmare."
Uber has tested a panic button for customers using its app in India. It had considered releasing a similar feature in Chicago but said it ultimately decided not to bring it to the U.S. because it might distract people from dialing 911.
"You don't want to confuse people about who they should be notifying," said Ed Davis, former Boston police commissioner and a member of Uber's safety advisory board. "You don't want to set up a second system that may confuse people and delay help when people desperately need it."
Uber said it's experimenting in Houston with a safety feature that uses location data from a phone's GPS, but there is no perfect solution. "After an incident like this, we all struggle for answers," Davis said. "There is no golden bullet."