- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2015

FOR WAYNE, Ind. (AP) - Fort Wayne has joined dozens of countries across the globe allowing the ride-hailing service Uber to transport residents around town.

Customers could start getting rides on the Uber smartphone app starting Thursday afternoon, and the company already has partnered with hundreds of drivers in the area, according to an Uber spokesman. The company was able to launch in Fort Wayne after Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill that allows ride-hailing services in Indiana.

But Rusty York, the city’s public safety director, is among a group of local officials that has concerns about the service because of its loose vetting process, which is at least partly caused by Uber drivers who have been accused of rape.

“There’s a law that nobody bothered to talk to us about, so we’re going to have to research this,” he said about House Bill No. 1278 at a recent Board of Public Safety meeting.

The bill was drafted by Rep. Matt Lehman of Berne and was touted as allowing “ridesharing to flourish throughout Indiana.” It requires passengers to be covered by insurance, either through the company’s plan or the driver.

York has said he’s worried it’s not as safe as some people think, because ridesharing companies may not conduct throughout background checks or ensure their drivers are insured. He said he plans to review the bill to see if it eliminates his concerns.

“It’s an interesting concept, but I just feel for the interest of public safety we have to monitor and have standards for these companies to meet before we allow them to transport our people,” York said several months ago during an interview.

Some cab companies also have voiced their unease about ridesharing services being welcome in Fort Wayne, because they’re required to much higher fees for permits, inspections and general liability insurance.

“The taxicab companies in town are not happy,” said Steve Sorgen, a retired police sergeant who handles taxi permits and inspections for the city.

Uber has said it’s reviewing its privacy policies and “fully acknowledges (it) hasn’t always gotten it right.”

Since its founding in 2009, Uber has expanded its services to about 200 cities in 57 countries.

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