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More Than 100 Uber Drivers Accused of Sex Crimes

CNN found problem not limited to Uber, Lyft has issues too.

by on May.01, 2018

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company is looking to make riders feel safer.

For much of the eight years of its existence, Uber has billed itself as a safe alternative for drivers who can’t, don’t want to or shouldn’t be behind the wheel.

How safe is Uber is really in question now that it has been revealed by CNN that 103 Uber riders have accused drivers of sexually assault or abuse in the last four years. Some of the cases that have been successfully prosecuted have seen drivers go to jail for 80 years.

The result of the one trial and other actions are of little solace to the victims.

“You are pretty much hitchhiking with strangers,” one victim told CNN. “How many people is it going to take to get assaulted before something is done?”

(Uber acquires bike-sharing company, Jump. Click Here for the story.)

Uber's new CEO Khosrowshahi says he's attempting different things to make Uber safer.

At least 31 drivers have been convicted for crimes ranging from forcible touching and false imprisonment to rape, and dozens of criminal and civil cases are pending, CNN found.

There is no publicly available data for the number of sexual assaults ride-share companies. CNN conducted an in-depth review of police reports, federal court records and county court databases for 20 major U.S. cities for its story.

Quietly, the company has been attempting to put policies in place to tell drivers that any kind of sexual interaction between an Uber driver and a paying customer is a violation of its policy. Additionally, the company has been meeting with drivers to discuss this behavior.

It has also created a sexual harassment video and plans to host 50 seminars or community meetings around the country to attempt to counteract the problem. It’s something the oft-troubled company needs to get resolved.

Compounding its problem is that at least one lawyer, Jeanne Christensen, an attorney with law firm Wigdor LLP, says it has been an ongoing problem. She has been pursuing Uber rape and assault cases since 2015 and claims to represent 16 women assaulted by Uber drivers and that her firm has even more, but wouldn’t reveal how many, according to CNN.

Christensen said she noticed a trend in those who’ve come to her firm for help: Victims tend to be female and petite, live alone and were inebriated at the time of the alleged assault, she told CNN.

CNN was told by other lawyers that it’s been an ongoing issue for the past five years, one telling the network, “Uber’s done a miraculous job keeping this story quiet.”

(Click Here for more details about the self-driving Uber test vehicle killing a pedestrian.)

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said on a recent conference call that finding ways to deter sexual assault is a “new priority for us.” “It is a priority that I expect to remain a priority for the foreseeable future,” said Khosrowshahi, who joined the company in late August after cofounder Travis Kalanick stepped down.

An Uber spokesperson told CNN in a statement that safety is the company’s top priority this year and pointed to recent updates in policy and protocol as evidence that the company takes these things seriously, including rerunning driver background checks on an annual basis moving forward.

Uber also plans to roll out a dedicated “safety center” within the Uber app where riders can designate contacts they want to share trip details with while they ride; it will also have an emergency button allowing users to call 911 from inside the app.

“This is just a start and we are committed to doing more,” the Uber spokesperson said. “Sexual assault is a horrible crime that has no place anywhere. While Uber is not immune to this societal issue, we want to be part of the solution to end this violence forever.”

To be certain, it’s not just Uber drivers committing these crimes. Lyft, Uber’s primary rival, is also dealing with sexual assaults by its drivers. A similar CNN review using the same methodology found 18 cases of Lyft drivers accused in the past four years. Four drivers have been convicted.

“The safety of the Lyft community is our top priority,” said a Lyft spokesperson, adding it has “worked hard to design policies and features that protect our community.”

(To see more about the Uber fatality investigation, Click Here.)

The ride-sharing giant has been accused by former female employees of creating a work environment that is akin to a frat house. On top of that, the former CEO and founder, Travis Kalanick, was caught yelling at a male Uber driver about problems with company, and finally the company was embroiled in a lawsuit brought by Google (now Waymo) that claimed a former employee of both company brought corporate secrets with him when he came to Uber to oversee the its self-driving vehicle platform.

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