By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ) —  Uber has announced it will start doing annual criminal background checks on drivers, following intense pressure on the ride-sharing company to make changes after drivers were accused of serious crimes like sexual assault.

Uber said Thursday it’s also hiring a second company to continuously check drivers’ arrest records.

“That’s really pretty good. I know they’ve had a lot of issues in the last couple of years,” customer Holly Allgaier said.

A driver in Maryland was accused of kidnapping his passenger then allegedly assaulting her in a Prince George’s County motel.

Last year, Colorado slapped an $8.9 million fine on the company for allowing people with tarnished records to drive.

The ride-hailing company says it’s currently working on a program where customers can call for help from within the phone app once they step inside a car. That feature is expected to alert emergency dispatchers about the driver and their car information.

Rob Weinhold, a crisis management expert, says Uber has no choice but to shell out money for these safety upgrades.

“What’s the alternative, not to do it? Absolutely not. You must put the right systems, the policies, the protocols, the background checks in place because you have an inherent responsibility to protect your customer,” Weinhold said.

At least one Uber driver welcomes the change.

“They should have been did it, but it’s a lot of crazy people in the world. But it’s a good thing to do,” driver Karlette Golder said.

For a company that boasts 15 million trips every day worldwide, the real test will be with customer satisfaction — and at least one passenger isn’t buying it.

“Really, with Uber, good chance it’s a PR stunt,” Uber passenger Yaniv Eisen said.

Uber says it has 16,000 employees and it completed 4 billion with B-rated rides in 2017.

Keeping tabs on thousands of drivers could be a challenge, but experts say that success is key to the company’s survival.

Uber says it will roll the changes out over the next several weeks.

 

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