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(Credit: Uber)

As reported last week by Download.com, ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft have been leaving loopholes for dangerous felons to become drivers by using cheaper and less-rigorous background checks. In the past 24 hours, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has released a statement outlining new steps the company is taking to better ensure the safety of its customers.

SEE: How Uber and Lyft are putting passengers in danger by choosing cheaper background checks for drivers

1. Continuous background checks

Uber will start re-running criminal background checks and motor vehicle checks on drivers each year. If a driver has been involved in recent criminal activity, Uber will attempt to catch it. From there, the company can decide to suspend the driver.

Uber's new system started testing in July and led to 25 drivers being removed.

"Ultimately what we're looking for... is a way to get the same kind of info as in a background check, but get it in a real-time manner," Gus Fuldner, Uber vice president of safety and insurance told Axios.

Keep in mind, Uber still plans to keep its less-expensive background check vendor, Checkr. But, Uber says it will use Appriss, a safety data company, to continuously collect information in real-time and alert on new violations.

The new information system would allow blocked drivers to reapply once their disqualifications are resolved.

2. Drowsy driver prevention

Uber noted that tired drivers is a problem beyond their company, which is true according to the Sleep Health Index survey. The study found that about 7 million people said they had trouble staying alert behind the wheel in a two week period.

Uber is launching a prompt feature in the US for drivers who've been behind the wheel for 12 hours to take six hours off--the app automatically goes offline until the six hours expire.

The feature will track driving time, so drivers can keep a log of hours. Drivers will be alerted periodically when they're approaching 12 hours. After a six hour break, the drivers can go back online and take more trip requests.

"Driver fatigue is a serious and underappreciated traffic safety issue, and states need all the help they can get to address it. GHSA is thrilled that Uber is taking steps to prevent drowsy driving by limiting the hours drivers can be behind the wheel," said Jonathan Adkins, Executive Director of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

3. Cracking down on misconduct

Uber claims it is making strides to earn back lost trust. Along with adding a emergency button that sends the cars location to a 911 call center, the company is addressing its sexual assault epidemic.

Uber plans to give survivors of assault more control over how they plan to pursue their claims. Instead of mandatory arbitration, survivors are given control over telling their story.

The company is also changing their confidentiality provision policy for survivors. In the past, Uber required a non-disclosure for victims of sexual assault who were trying to settle a claim with the company.

"Whether to find closure, seek treatment, or become advocates for change themselves, survivors will be in control of whether to share their stories. Enabling survivors to make this choice will help to end the culture of silence that surrounds sexual violence," Uber said.

Uber also committed to publishing a safety transparency report that will include sexual assault data. The company says the decision was difficult because of inconsistent and sparse data, but said it teamed up with 80 women's groups for advisement.

4. Ride check

Uber has obviously used GPS in its app since the beginning, but it's taking the technology a step further to detect possible crashes. The new feature can make sure passengers and drivers are okay in the event of an accident and provide resources for assistance. The feature also links to the Safety Toolkit with 911 assistance and the Uber safety team for follow up.

The feature monitors the entire ride, route, speed, estimated time of arrival, and can also detect irregularities in a planned trip like making an unexpected, or long stop. An alert will be sent in those events.

5. Driver safety

Most cars allow for hands-free smartphone usage and Uber will too. Testing is set to begin soon for voice-activated commands to ensure safety for drivers when interacting with the app in hands-free mode. The feature would let drivers accept trip requests and talk to customers without taking their hands off the wheel.

To match the passenger in-app emergency button, drivers will have an emergency button as well. The feature is being tested in the US and works similarly to the passenger button. When pressed, 911 is contacted and the car's real-time location, license plate, and make and model of the car is sent.

The new feature will also make driver insurance information easier to access..

6. Address protection

Uber is also stepping up privacy protection. The company is working to ensure drivers and passengers can communicate through the app without sharing personal information.

The company used to store complete ride history with exact pick up and drop off locations. To improve on safety, Uber is giving passengers the option to get picked up at cross streets and conceal exact addresses.

7. Two-step authorization

Uber is working to give users more account security as well. Instead of one verification code, users can now add a text message option or use third-party authentication programs like Google Authenticator or Authy.

Uber said it has been testing some of these features during 2018 and will be rolling them out in the coming months.

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Takeaways

  1. In response to safety concerns, Uber announced a series of new protections for drivers and passengers.
  2. Uber is getting stricter with background checks, cracking down on drowsy drivers, tracking rides more closely, and focusing more on driver, digital, and account safety.

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Shelby is an Associate Writer for CNET's Download.com. She served as Editor in Chief for the Louisville Cardinal newspaper at the University of Louisville. She interned as Creative Non-Fiction Editor for Miracle Monocle literary magazine. Her work appears in Glass Mountain Magazine, Bookends Review, Soundings East, and on Louisville.com. Her cat, Puck, is the best cat ever.