Uber under scrutiny in Delhi after driver charged with rape

Police are checking, for example, whether Uber verified the driver's antecedents

Ride-hailing company Uber is under scrutiny in Delhi after police arrested one of its drivers for allegedly raping a female passenger.

The Delhi police has served Uber a notice to join the investigations, Madhur Verma, deputy police commissioner, said Monday.

The police are investigating among other things whether Uber was negligent in checking the background of the driver, including his license to run a "public service vehicle" as required by Delhi rules, Verma said in a phone interview.

The driver was allegedly also arrested in a sexual assault case in 2011, according to a newspaper report.

The police are also looking into whether the car had a GPS (global positioning system) in operation at the time, Verma said. The driver had GPS on his mobile phone which was switched off by him to evade detection and arrest, he said.

Uber said in a statement Sunday it exclusively partners with "registered for-hire drivers who have undergone the commercial licensing process, hold government issued IDs, state-issued permits, and carry full commercial insurance."

The company, which allows smartphone users to hail a ride using an app, said it also has a GPS trace and record of all trips that occur on the platform, which it has shared with the authorities.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said the company will work with the government "to establish clear background checks currently absent in their commercial transportation licensing programs," according to a statement emailed Monday by spokeswoman Evelyn Tay.

"We will also partner closely with the groups who are leading the way on women's safety here in New Delhi and around the country and invest in technology advances to help make New Delhi a safer city for women," he added.

India has been rocked by high-profile rape cases in the last few years. In 2005, for example, a female employee of a business process outsourcing firm in Bangalore was driven in a taxi to a remote place and allegedly raped by the driver.

But people have expressed shock this weekend that a woman could have been raped while using a premium service like Uber.

Uber said in April this year that it had developed a three-step driver screening process in the U.S., which included county, federal and multi-state checks, going back seven years. "Unlike the taxi industry, our background checking process and standards are consistent across the United States and often more rigorous than what is required to become a taxi driver," it said in April.

The company has been plagued by reports of misbehavior by its drivers, including one instance when a driver allegedly assaulted a passenger in San Francisco.

The driver in Delhi will be produced in court later on Monday, Verma said. He was arrested in Mathura outside Delhi.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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