Uber Adds Safety Checklist for Chicago App Users

Following accusations of sexual assault against some Uber drivers, Chicago operators of the ride sharing app have implemented a new safety checklist for users.

The "Safe Ride Checklist" reminds riders to match the license plate number listed on the app with the driver's vehicle and to make sure the name and photo of the driver matches those in the app. 

"We believe the Uber app provides the safest transportation option in Chicago," Uber Chicago said in a statement. 

Uber noted the app has a two-way rating system, GPS tracking, and shows riders a driver's information. The company also said drivers must pass a thorough background check. 

"We have more work to do," the statement read. "We are also working to improve communications with our riders and drivers because we care about the Chicagoans who put their trust in us every day. The Uber Chicago safety checklist is part of that effort and was developed to ensure the safety features that are already built into the app are being fully utilized."

The new feature was added just in time for New Year's Eve and began as a former driver appeared in court on charges of sexual assault in Chicago.

Maxime Fohounhedo, 30, is accused of assaulting a 22-year-old woman who was a passenger in his cab on Nov. 16, according to formal charges announced by Chicago police Monday night.

The San Francisco-based company says Fohounhedo was driving on an account in his wife's name in violation of Uber's rules. Prosecutors say he used his own photo and phone number on the account.

Uber spokeswoman Jennifer Mullin couldn't immediately explain how that discrepancy could have been missed during the application process or despite what she said were Uber's "regular re-checks" of driver photos.

"We do our best to send drivers through our background check process, which far exceeds what's expected of taxis," she said. "But there is also a responsibility for the rider to make sure that when they get into an Uber that they're checking the license plate and they're checking the driver's face and making sure all that matches up."

In this case, though, such scrutiny by the rider might not have helped because Fohounhedo's own photo would have showed up on the user's smartphone, Mullin acknowledged.

Last summer, an Uber driver was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Virginia. 

Earlier in the year, a driver was charged with battery in Chicago for allegedly fondling a passenger.

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