Andrew Cohen and Jason Styles' Proposal on Uber and Lyft Background/Security Checks

Context

Reference to a current Michigan bill or law that relates in some way to your proposal:

Bill No. 181 - An act to provide for the protection of children through the licensing and regulation of child care organizations. This bill relates to our proposal because it touches on how the background checks of the child care organizations will be done and why they are necessary.

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2017-2018/billintroduced/Senate/pdf/2017-SIB-0181.pdf

Why this proposal will make a difference in the lives of students of all ages across Michigan, or a significant subgroup (by age, background, economic status, and/or region, etc.) of students in Michigan:

A large portion of students across America use Uber or Lyft, or some sort of ride-sharing app as a quick and easy way to get from Point A to Point B in a timely manner. Especially here in Ann Arbor, a city that is very spread out and full of lazy, drunk or rushed college students, ridesharing is a blessing for most, and is used extremely frequently. As recently as the end of this past December, an Uber passenger was stabbed five times in Detroit, Michigan and ultimately died from the inflicted damage. When asked why the driver committed this heinous crime, he explained “he felt the customer “disrespected” his car.”

As horrific as this incident is, this was just one of the many instances where we’ve seen ridesharing drivers committing terrible crimes against their passengers across the country. In Michigan alone, there have been 6 instances where passengers were killed by their driver, and this does not include all the instances where passengers are raped, abused, assaulted both verbally and physically. By mandating, background checks on all Uber drivers in the state of Michigan, we hope to cut down on the number of these horrific events here in Michigan. We want to make the students of Michigan feel safe riding in Uber and Lyft again, and not have to worry about who their driver is, where he is from, and what he has done in the past. This will be a huge step forward in achieving this goal.

Also, an act was recently passed in Massachusetts, which demanded that these ridesharing companies begin background checking. Thousands of the Massachusetts ride-sharing service drivers promptly failed these tests. This shows that there are many current ride-sharing company drivers who are not fit to be on the road.

How and where did you learn about the issues underlying your proposal?

Recently, last semester, we had a friend tell us about a story in which we was riding in an Uber from Ann Arbor to the Detroit Airport, and the driver proceeded to verbally abuse my friend throughout the 40 minute trip. He was saying some very insensitive things about my friend’s race and religious background. A couple of weeks later, the story about the Detroit driver who stabbed a man 5 times and killed him for disrespecting his car was was all over the news. For this reason, when we were tasked with creating a proposal to help the people of Michigan, this was the first thing that came to our minds. Ultimately, it was not hard to find events similar to these occurring throughout the country, more specifically in Michigan.

How has your service activity influenced your thinking about this proposal?

Having both volunteered at the Boys and Girls club, we both submitted ourselves to a background check. In order to be able to work with the boys and girls, we needed to give them our Social Security Numbers, license numbers, and a whole lot of background information. Being college students at the University of Michigan, they could have easily assumed that we can be trusted and allow us to give them the help they so desperately needed, but they still took the time and paid the cost of getting the background check in order to ensure the children they oversee are as safe as they possibly can be.

In addition, the Boys and Girls club was relatively far away from Ann Arbor, and when we asked the kids who we volunteered with whether they’d ever used Uber, they explained that they wouldn’t because their parents wouldn’t let them. When we asked them why, they said their parents didn’t feel it was safe, and would rather drive them around themselves. This was eye opening for us, because even though we, as Michigan students, all feel very safe with the Uber drivers in Ann Arbor, people less than 20 minutes away from us feel unsafe to the point where they won’t even download the app.

Link to your media artifact(s) giving background on the issue:

https://drive.google.com/a/umich.edu/file/d/0B492yDNxe1sBQW1KTkxmT0liSzA/view?usp=sharing - Interview with a victim

https://drive.google.com/a/umich.edu/file/d/0B492yDNxe1sBWjl6QzM3VWdyRDQ/view?usp=sharing - Short video highlighting problem

Consultations

Talk directly with at least 3 real live people who have special knowledge about this topic or the impact your proposal would have, and summarize their comments. These may include people appearing in your media artifact (video, podcast, etc.).

CONSULTATION 1: Bennett Kramer, Age 20, Student at The University of Texas:

In Austin, TX, a vote was recently upheld which mandated Uber, Lyft and other transportation network companies there to do fingerprint-based background checks of their drivers, among other things. Residents and students alike took part in helping to pass this mandate, and we called Bennett to see how he voted and why. “Recently, there have been a lot of incidences in Austin where people have felt unsafe with their drivers. Austin is a very liberal town with a lot of very open-minded people, but a lot of the Uber drivers come from different cities in Texas where their morals are very different than ours are here,” explained Bennett. He said that he voted to make these background checks necessary because he no longer wanted to feel unsafe getting in Uber or Lyft, and wanted the security of knowing that his driver was going to get him from point A to point B in a safe and efficient manner. When asked how this rule has affected ridesharing in Austin, Bennett explained “A black market has opened up in order to get around the city. People are using different means of offering rides, whether it be through Facebook or other forms of social media.” People of Austin are waiting for a new ride-sharing company to come in to Austin that is willing to conform with these rules and take the large market share that Uber and Lyft has left behind. While Bennett agreed that it is annoying not having a definite means of transportation, there are definitely ways around it, and believes that a safer, more appealing version of ride-sharing will be available in Austin sooner rather than later.

CONSULTATION 2: Steven Lowenstein, Former Uber Driver

One of our friend’s dad is a rabbi at Am Shalom in the suburbs of Chicago, and because he had so much free time, decided to test out driving for Uber. When asked what the process was for becoming an Uber driver, his answer was quite appalling. “All I did was sign up on Uber’s website, submit my ID and license plate number and confirm that I have had no fatal car accidents in the past, that was about the extent of it.” As shocked as we were, Rabbi Lowenstein explained he was horrified at the minimal checks they did into his background, explaining that basically anyone who hasn’t killed anyone in a car accident would be eligible to work for Uber. He understood the implications requiring background checks would have, but noted that he has two sons who use Uber quite frequently, and would be more than happy to pay the extra amount per ride if it meant his children were safe.

CONSULTATION 3: Andy Shlensky, Member of American Camp Association

After speaking with Andy Shlensky, we learned of the ACA’s collection of requirements for camps background checks. The ACA requires that Standard HR4-B is fulfilled. This standard defines the procedure for criminal background checks. Camps can perform name, finger-print, or biometric based background checks. These bases lead them to databases regarding that individual coming from FBI, State, Local and also Private databases. These scans also lead them to records of individuals’ driver’s licenses regarding tickets, convictions, citations and then to state sex offender registries, followed by the US Department of Justice database, and sex offender registries. Lizabeth stated that the FBI database is most reliable, but in order to gain access you must go through state level.

Prospectus:

With technology changing and enhancing our lives in ways that people previously thought unimaginable, everyday activities have become much quicker and simpler. Apps such as Uber and Lyft have revolutionized the way that people get around, allowing users to call a taxi to their door from the comfort of their own bed with only the click of a button. However, because this technology has evolved so rapidly, people still do not know how to safely implement these improvements into our society. The main problem that we are trying to address is the lack of security checks that these technological transportation companies use. In order to become an Uber driver, all it takes is a simple application, no background checks, no interviews, nothing. The issue that arises from this is that people who should probably be in jail end up driving for Uber and Lyft, which leads to crime. In the past couple of months, there have been 5 instances in which an Uber driver has assaulted or shot or harassed customers and Uber has no obligation to do anything for the customers. As a rider in Uber, you assume all the risk, and if the driver gets into an accident or harms you in any way, Uber is in no way legally obligated to do anything about it. As a rider in Ann Arbor specifically, we have never felt endangered or nervous about our drivers. However, we have had friends and family members ride in sketchier areas such as Detroit, Ypsilanti or New York City in which they had fears that their drivers would do something to harm them.

Potential Solutions:

Describe three reasonable, feasible potential solutions or approaches that would help address this problem.

SOLUTION 1:

This is a two step process: the first is that Uber/Lyft should consult the American Camp Association for their background check services, and the second is that they should raise the degree of their liability insurance. The American Camp Association provides background checks for sleepaway camp counselors, thus by using their services, Uber/Lyft could extract the benefits of ACA’s history assuring the backgrounds of camp counselors, and tailor advertisements to show that their drivers are as researched as camp counselors who are responsible kids for months. By claiming that they background check their drivers Uber/Lyft takes on more responsibility, and with this they must protect themselves with more liability insurance.

 

SOLUTION 2:

The second solution involves internal readjustments. Uber/Lyft should create a more crude rating system of drivers, in which after rides, riders are coerced to share any critical information they have of a driver. Uber/Lyft also must establish a Driver court, where you go for review if multiple concerning reviews are received. Also, drivers must connect with the review board once every hundred rides.

SOLUTION 3:

The third solution is likely the most cost efficient. In the instance that there is an individual applying to Uber/Lyft with anything on their record criminally, they are automatically no longer considered for the position. This keeps individuals with troubled pasts out of the system, while at the same time avoiding the high fixed and variable costs of instituting large-scale background checks.

Reaction or advice from a Topic Coordinator:

You must solicit a critique from a topic coordinator, and explain the impact that advice has had on the final draft of this proposal.

When sitting down Professor Stanzler to discuss our proposal, he said he was quite intrigued by the different ways we could take our project. Initially, we wanted to make our consultants a friend who had been victim to an incident while riding in an Uber or Lyft, and didn’t know where else to go. Professor Stanzler said this would not be enough, as we have to not simply find out why Uber should require background checks, but rather how it would be implemented and how viable of an option it was in terms of implementation and financial capabilities. After deliberating with Professor Stanzler, we came to the conclusion that it was mandatory for us to speak with someone who does the background checks that we are proposing and finding out what this would entail. In addition, we Professor Stanzler said we have to work backwards, or more specifically, find out why people may refute these background checks, and find a way to tell them that we understand your concerns, but according to X, Y, and Z, the background checks are viable and here is why.

Research process:

Describe your research process — indicate who you talked to (including but not limited to consultants), what you read, what your thinking was, how it changed over time, and how your consultants changed your thinking. This description of your research process definitely could include “dead ends,” or ideas you had that didn’t ultimately bear fruit.  In short, we want to know what you did and how it led to your legislation, and we also want you to give us a window into your thought process.

Our research lead us to connecting with many individuals, and conversations with this wide range of changed our perspective over time. Our research began with reading articles on dangerous/unacceptable experiences that riders had with drivers of these platforms. We saw this as a pressure point for these companies, and looked to hear from individuals who had experiences similar to these. After hearing from Kyle Slovis in an interview, regarding his dangerous experience in an Uber, we knew there was an issue with how Uber screened their drivers. At this point we blamed the ride-sharing companies for these issues. We then spoke with an ex-Lyft driver, who joined the company for the summer, as a precursor to a study he had initiated. Ste Lowenstein compared the Lyft background check process to filling out a survey; there was minimal request for information outside of checking boxes. We saw this as a clear statement that these companies were the reason that these individuals with questionable pasts/personalities were ending up employed by them; but we shortly realized we were wrong.

We were lucky enough to speak Bennett Kramer, a resident of Austin, Texas. Bennett was amongst the voters in the Austin Uber Case, which ruled that these ride-sharing companies had to perform fingerprint based background checks, amongst other things. This changed our perspective; unless the government demanded these companies perform background checks, they will never perform them and incur their extra costs. This was hands down our most valuable conversation, as it showed us that the most practical solution to this problem lay with local governments instituting legislation which demands background checks. We then looked to determining what a proper system for background checks would be, and came to a conclusion we’re confident in. The American Camp Association has policies/procedures in place for an adult to be deemed fit to supervise a child for a summer, and parents are comfortable with this; so after talking with the American Camp Association we decided to use their background check procedure, which an organization employee detailed to us. We then consulted X for guidance on how to put this plan into our legislation.

Author contributions:

Please delineate--in detail--who made what contributions to the process and to the finished proposal? Who took on which responsibilities in researching ideas, drafting language, etc.?

Andrew:

  • Consultation with Rabbi Steven Lowenstein and Student Bennett Kramer

  • Created the minute long video about Uber/Lyft safety awareness for the Media Artifact

  • Analyzed much of the research to answer main questions, such as how will this impact students in state of Michigan, and figured out how to best present it in an effective manner

  • Met with Topic Coordinator Brett Spielman to review and revise final proposal and receive feedback

  • Did preliminary research to figure out whether this was a real issue that needed to be solved in Michigan particular

Jason:

  • Consultation with Andy Shlensky and interview with Kyle Slovis (media artifact)

  • Did much of background research to determine possible alternatives and their funding/costs

  • Came up with likely counterarguments companies such as Uber and Lyft may have to implementing mandatory background checks

  • Found proper solutions to these counterarguments

  • Did final edits of proposal to check for grammatical errors

  • Figured out three potential solutions that were all unique of each other but equally as feasible

Both:

  • Collaborated on topic that we both found interesting as well as relevant

  • Met with Professor Stanzler to discuss progress on our proposal as well as best steps to take in the future, in terms of consultations/bills to use/etc.

  • Sat with analyzed research documents, and answered the core proposal questions

  • Proofread proposal after final edits to ensure all sections built off of each other, and supported final proposal

===FORMAL PROPOSAL===

The sections below should comprise your final proposal language, submitted for consideration by your peers and potential inclusion in the MSC Platform.

Preambulatory clauses

These set up the PROBLEM, but not the solution.

WHEREAS.... Michigan has had 6 incidents since the beginning of 2014 in which Uber or Lyft passengers have been killed by drivers unrelated to driving accidents.

WHEREAS.... 2 of the 5 worst incidents that have ever been committed by Uber’s drivers in terms of death toll or injury count have occurred in the state of Michigan

WHEREAS.... Michigan has the 4th highest proportion of Uber drivers compared to users, only behind Florida, New York and California, meaning more and more people want to drive

WHEREAS… Michigan does not require security or background checks on ride-sharing applicants so there is a very low standard as to who can drive

Operative clauses

These describe in detail, the solution you are proposing (not the problem itself; those should go in the "Whereas" clauses above).

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED....

1. Locally require ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft to mandate background and security checks through the same company that checks counselors of the American Camp Association

2. Checking all applicants backgrounds will result in less criminals or convicted felons driving on the road and will therefore lower number of incidents in the state of Michigan

3. While costs of rides may increase marginally, riders will feel more comfortable getting in an Uber or a Lyft, therefore increasing users and profits

Counter-arguments:

What are three reasonable arguments against this proposal?

1. The background check process outlined in the proposal would cost about $40 per check, it is too much of a burden to demand this of these companies. This added cost would ultimately increase the cost of riding with Uber or Lyft, no longer making it a cheaper alternative mode of transportation.

2. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has argued that by instituting a strict background check policy citizens who have been unfairly “snared” by the justice system are wronged. Kalanick says that not using a fingerprint based criminal check allows individuals who have been arrested and rehabilitated the opportunity to find work.

3. This policy does not just affect the ride-sharing companies, the State would have to create a group which would oversee and ensure that the companies were completing the standards. This would take time and money away from a State with many failing schools.

Costs and funding:

What will your proposal cost (in direct expenses, lost tax revenue, lost economic opportunity, and/or non-monetary costs)? How will you pay for your proposed legislation? Where will/could the funding for your proposal come from?  Who might object to dedicating resources to your proposal (competing interests)?  

This proposal has two main costs; the ones associated with the ride-sharing companies, and the ones associated with the oversight department of the government, which will ensure that the background checks are being completed.

According to research of background check databases, the criminal portion will cost about 25$/check, the sex offender portion will cost about 5$/check, the motor vehicle portion will cost about 10$/check. It is required that the more expensive criminal check be done (the FBI database check), because it is the most accurate. This leads to about 40$/check, and this monetary cost will be taken on by the ride-sharing companies. With this, synergies should also be considered. The added safety of ride-sharing companies with these background checks will eventually lead to demand increases, and the opportunity for the companies to raise rates - this will cover the costs of the background checks.

Then comes the government portion. The State of Michigan will be reorganizing their transportation system, and this is expected to generate savings of nearly $1 Million per year. Also, the Kinross Correctional Facility in Kincheloe was deactivated in 2016, this has generated yearly savings of $2 Million per year. The average salary of a probation officer in the State of Michigan is $51,760 per year. The work of a probation officer “oversight of someone convicted” is comparable to the work of the new employees who will monitor whether or not these ride-sharing companies are properly performing background checks in Michigan. 20 people will be hired to run this department, 17 as field members who actually investigate whether or not these policies are followed by the companies and 1 who reports to the criminal system if the policies are broken, these 18 are hired at the salary of a probation officer. (From our consultation with Andy Shlensky of ACA, there are 46 employees who work full time at the American Camp Assoiciation helping to do the background checks of over 2,400 camps. This means that these 46 employees help keep over 1,000,000,000 students safe by background checking over 300,000 counselors and staff members every summer. There are only 160,000 Uber drivers worldwide, so the number of drivers in the state of Michigan must be significantly lower than that. We decided we would rather be safe than sorry when assigning the number of people to running these background checks, so we used 20 as a high estimate.) There will then be 2 senior members who oversee the employees, and assign tasks based on evaluation of employee performance. They will be compensated at the level of senior probation officers which have an average salary of $63,750 in the state of michigan. This would cost $1,059,180 per year, which is easily covered by the cost decreases which were listed above.

References:

These can include websites or other information you have found about the issue.

http://www.idrivewithuber.com/uber-driver-requirements/

http://www.mlive.com/lansing-news/index.ssf/2015/01/michiganders_find_part-time_em.html

http://www.whosdrivingyou.org/rideshare-incidents

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/uber-driver-passenger-disrespected-car-stabs-5-times-article-1.2916075





 

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Total votes: 28