New Delhi: Over a month after it was banned in the national capital, US taxi-hailing app maker Uber said it has applied to become a licensed radio taxi operator and will hire only divers who passed police background checks recently.
In a significant change to its business model, Uber Technologies Inc on January 21 applied to be licensed under a programme that requires operators to install satellite tracking devices and use a central control room.
Uber had till now insisted that it was a technology service connecting drivers with potential riders and not a taxi company.
In a statement, the San Francisco-based company said it will hire drivers who had their background checked by police within six weeks before their applications.
Also, it would conduct independent background checks for all its drivers as well as review vehicle documentation to ensure rider safety.
Besides, additional safety features such as an in-app emergency button and a dedicated incident-response team nationwide would be set up.
The decision, it said, reflected its "commitment to providing riders with more options for safe and reliable transportation, including the ability to request a radio taxi on-demand."
Uber was barred from operating in the national capital after a 26-year-old executive was allegedly raped by a driver of the taxi hired by her using the firm's app on December 6.
India is Uber's largest market outside the US.
Radio cabs firms must have a fleet of 200 vehicles, a 24 hour call centre and panic buttons in their vehicles.
"As we resume operations in Delhi, we are only allowing driver-partners who have undergone re-verification of their police clearance in the last six weeks to get back on the platform," Uber said. "For an additional layer of screening, we are implementing independent background checks on all driver partners, plus vehicle documentation reviews."
"Over the past few weeks, we have had many conversations with our rider and driver communities, and we are aware that they eagerly want Uber back on Delhi roads. Our driver-partners' livelihoods had been severely impacted and our riders were left without the platform they had come to rely upon for their daily needs," the statement said.
Uber, it said, has applied for a licence under the radio taxi scheme "to reflect our commitment to providing riders with more options for safe and reliable transportation, including the ability to request a radio taxi on-demand."
The company said it continues to engage with the relevant Delhi authorities to work towards the Kolkata model, set by the Bidhannagar City Police, who have introduced new regulations for on-demand transportation technology aggregators.
"We believe this is the progressive model that ultimately puts the safety of consumers first, while recognising the power of new technologies like Uber that will make city transportation safer," it said.
Uber said its teams have worked tirelessly to develop new safety features (including an in-app emergency button) nationwide, establish a dedicated incident response team and re-verify the full credentials of every driver-partner on the Uber platform in Delhi.
"Connecting riders with a safe, reliable transportation option, while providing drivers with better opportunities is our unwavering mission, and we are setting an even higher standard than current industry requirements. Our commitment to make transportation safe in Indian cities has never been more absolute and we won't rest till the job is done," the statement added.