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

David Ramos/Getty ImagesUber was in court this week.
  • Uber this week acknowledged that sending drivers do-it-yourself 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 that it stopped after 2016.
  • Uber held its hands up to the failings in court as it successfully won back its operator’s licence in London.
  • A lawyer for London’s transport regulator slammed the company as “naive” for using Push Doctor.

Uber this week acknowledged that sending drivers medical tests they could cheat on was probably not a great idea.

The company appeared in a London court on Monday and Tuesday and successfully won back its operator’s licence in the British capital, whose transport regulator had revoked it in September. Uber was granted a 15-month probationary licence.

“We did things, in hindsight, that were pretty stupid, to be frank,” its lawyer Thomas de la Mare told the court.

One of those, the company said, was using the 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 do-it-yourself 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.

Push DoctorPush DoctorPush Doctor conducts online medical checks.

The problem, according to a lawyer for the London transport regulator, Transport for London, was that the process was “open to abuse.”

“Wasn’t it blindingly obvious that sending someone an envelope with the answers in was unsatisfactory?” Martin Chamberlain, the TfL lawyer, said. 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 from August 22, 2016, to September 23, 2016, halting when TfL raised objections.

Push Doctor did not appear in court. A spokesman told Business Insider: “TFL were fully aware of the health services that were to be provided to Uber drivers as part of their onboarding process. They were provided by NHS trained UK doctors and no problems were encountered. We reject outright any claims to the contrary.”

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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