Uber's new safety advisory board chairman: I took the position knowing there'd be many interesting issues

  • Saftey, including with self-driving cars, is a huge priority for Uber, says former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who is the company's new safety advisory board chairman.
  • "I took this advisory position knowing that there'd be many interesting issues to be focused on," he says.

Saftey, including with self-driving cars, is a huge priority for Uber, the ride-hailing company's new safety advisory board chairman told CNBC on Friday.

"I took this advisory position knowing that there'd be many interesting issues to be focused on," said Jeh Johnson, secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama.

Johnson, who is the company's first chairman on the safety advisory board, said the new leadership team at Uber is very focused on safety. "They realize it is simply good for business to be focused on safety and to be seen as focused on safety," Johnson told "Squawk Box"

Uber temporarily halted self-driving car tests in all locations after a woman was struck and killed on March 18 by a self-driving Uber vehicle in Tempe, Arizona. The company had suspended the program a year earlier after another crash, which did not result in serious injuries.

The ride-hailing company is also facing a class action suit in the U.S. for poor driver vetting that has led to a series of sexual harassment incidents, including rape.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who joined the company in August, announced Thursday that the company is adding safety features, including background checks for drivers, a new emergency button that will connect users to a 911 operator and an in-app safety toolkit.

Khosrowshahi also announced that Johnson will lead the six-member board, which consists of law enforcement, road safety, criminal justice, sexual assault and domestic violence prevention experts.

Johnson served as secretary of Homeland Security from December 2013 to January 2017. He is also a fellow at the American College of Trial Lawyers.

—CNBC's Anita Balakrishnan and Reuters contributed to this report.

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