Pa. watchdog group urges Uber to "strengthen" background checks

Police say 21-year-old University of South Carolina student Samantha Josephson hopped into the wrong car early Friday morning in Columbia, South Carolina. Investigators believe she thought she was getting into an Uber she had ordered. Hunters found her body in a rural area Friday afternoon.

Despite the fact that Josephson's accused killer is not an Uber driver a watchdog group in Pennsylvania says Uber needs to better protect their riders.

FOX 29's Jeff Cole reports.

125,0000 times a day in Philadelphia Uber and Lyft give a passenger a ride. Ride-sharing is booming just stand on a busy street corner and watch them zoom by.

"As far as I'm concerned it is. They do background check and driving record checks," Uber driver John Kralle said.

The Public Utility Commission, a Pa. watchdog, in an audit finds Uber could improve its background checks and is urging the company to "strengthen" them. It also wants Uber to redesign its Safety Toolkit icon for easier identification.

"Do you believe riders are safe getting into an Uber?" FOX 29's Jeff Cole asked. Scott Petri with the Philadelphia Parking Authority replied, "Sometimes, yes sometimes, no. The answer is I really don't know."

Scott Petri leads the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which oversees ridesharing in the city.

He wants his agency to do the background checks, register drivers, audit the companies and force their vehicles to display special license plates. He says he needs more authority and money to improve regulation.

"I don't think it's adequate. I will tell you I think it's the best we can do, the best the PUC can do with resources that have provided," Petri said.

"I want to be safe. I am worried about my safety but I also want my riders to be safe," Uber driver Charlotte McFadden.

Riders seem to like the service but say they're cautious.

"It's fairly safe if you pay attention and your getting into the right vehicle," Uber rider Bonnie Desoursa said.

In a written response to the audit, Uber says it has already strengthened its background checks process but disagrees with the recommendation to include fingerprinting. It says it plans to improve its toolkit icon as it develops a new version.