Uber says sending drivers medical tests they could easily cheat was 'pretty stupid'

  • Uber has admitted that sending drivers DIY eye tests was probably not a good idea because the process was "open to abuse."

  • The company said using Push Doctor, which carried out medical checks on drivers over a video call, was a mistake and that it stopped after 2016.

  • Uber held its hands up to the failings in court as it tried to win back its operator's licence in London.

  • A lawyer for London's transport regulator slammed the company as "naive" for using Push Doctor.

Uber has admitted that sending drivers medical tests which they could cheat was probably not a great idea.

The company appeared in a London court on Monday and Tuesday to try and win back its operator's licence in the British capital, after it was revoked by transport regulator TfL in September 2017.

Uber was successful and was granted a 15-month probationary licence, but its lawyer Thomas de la Mare told the court: "We did things, in hindsight, that were pretty stupid, to be frank."

One of those, the company said, was using online service Push Doctor to carry out compulsory medical checks on would-be Uber drivers. Anyone who drives a taxi or cab in London needs to pass a medical test. Push Doctor's checks on Uber drivers were carried out with doctors via video link.

Push Doctor's vision test, the court heard, was a DIY process that involved sending the driver a kit containing an eye test, the correct answers to the eye test, and a measuring tape.

Drivers had to use the measuring tape to ensure they were the correct distance from the eye test, then read out the results over a video call, the court heard.

The problem was, according to TfL lawyer Martin Chamberlain, the process was "open to abuse."

"Wasn't it blindingly obvious that sending someone an envelope with the answers in was unsatisfactory?" said Chamberlain. Tom Elvidge, Uber's UK and Ireland chief, responded: "This was not a good idea."

Chamberlain slammed Uber's driver induction team as "naive" and suggested the company's use of Push Doctor rather than physical medical checks was "a wheeze to save some money."

Elvidge responded: "Absolutely not. The commitment to public safety was not an issue. What it was was a poor idea that wasn’t given sufficient review."

According to court documents, Uber used Push Doctor between 22 August and 23 September 2016, halting when TfL raised objections.

The Push Doctor issue was one of several ways Uber was inadequate on safety, TfL argued in court. Uber promised that such a problem wouldn't happen again, and one of the conditions for its licence is that it notifies TfL of any product and process changes.

Push Doctor did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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