TRANSPORT-UBER/CHALLENGES

(Reuters)

Is Rider Safety the Achilles Heel for Uber and Lyft?

Markets Associated Press

Pressure from government regulators and protests by taxi cab competitors haven't put the brakes on ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft. A bigger threat to the new industry's impressive growth could come from customers — if enough people stop using the services over fears that drivers aren't safe.

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This week Uber drivers in India and Chicago were charged with sexual assault. California prosecutors separately sued the company and smaller rivals Lyft and Sidecar, saying they mislead customers about the rigor of their background checks. Scattered incidents don't prove that the taxi alternatives are unsafe. But they do present a challenge for the industry if riders begin to think they reflect a systemic disregard for passenger safety.

Uber says that it screens would-be drivers against "federal, multi-state and county criminal background checks spanning the past seven years." The company expects to complete more than 2 million checks this year.