Uber revealed more than 3,000 sexual assaults were reported during its 1.3 billion U.S. rides last year, including 235 rapes. Those reports include incidents where riders and drivers were attacked.
The ride-hailing company issued a long-awaited study Thursday chronicling the safety issues – and violations – that were reported to the company. The 21-month effort is the first of its kind from any ride-hailing company.
The U.S.-based information gives insight into crimes that occurred during Uber rides. It is part of the company’s effort to be more transparent after years of criticism about its safety record in the wake of a string of assaults, sexual assaults and rapes several years ago.
The report includes “a review of hundreds of thousands of customer support requests; a complete rethink of how we categorize the most serious safety incidents that happen during Uber trips; an overhaul of how we train our support staff; and an even bigger investment in cutting-edge safety technology,” Uber Chief Legal Officer Tony West wrote in the report.
The report covers two years of events. In 2017, the company recorded 2,936 reported sexual assaults — including 229 rapes — during 1 billion U.S. trips. Uber bases its numbers on reports from riders and drivers. The numbers are likely to be higher as sexual assaults in the U.S. often go unreported.
“I suspect many people will be surprised at how rare these incidents are; others will understandably think they’re still too common,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted after the report was released. “Some people will appreciate how much we’ve done on safety; others will say we have more work to do. They will all be right.”
Ride-hailing services have been criticized in the past for failing to do more to ensure the health and safety of their riders and drivers. Uber was sued last month by a Connecticut woman alleging she was sexually assaulted by a driver. Uber’s not alone as dozens of women are suing Lyft, claiming the company should have done more to protect them from driver assaults.
Uber’s report isn’t just a compilation of safety statistics, as West pointed out. It also chronicles what groups the company is working with to improve the safety of its riders and drivers as well as what steps it has taken and is currently testing to make that happen.
“(We’ve) added new safety features like our In-App Emergency Button, more rigorous background checks that continuously look for new criminal offenses, and technology that allows us to check in with customers if we detect a potential crash or unexpected long stop during a trip,” West wrote in the report.
“We’re constantly pushing to do more on safety. We’re rolling out new features that allow riders to verify their driver with a secure PIN code, send a text message directly to 911 operators, and report safety incidents to Uber before their trip is even over.”
Uber is taking other actions based off the findings in the report and its partnership with advocacy groups, including:
- Deactivation sharing: We’re committed to finding a way to share the names of drivers who have been banned from our platform for the most serious safety incidents with our ridesharing peers. We want companies to be able to use this information to protect their customers.
- New technology features: We’re rolling out new features that allow riders to verify their driver with a secure PIN code, send a text message directly to 911 operators, and report safety incidents to Uber even before their trip is over.
- Uber Survivor Support Hotline: In 2020, Uber will partner with RAINN to provide a dedicated survivor hotline that will provide confidential crisis support and specialized services to survivors.
- Sexual misconduct education for all drivers: In 2020, Uber will expand sexual misconduct and assault education to all US drivers. We are partnering with RAINN, the nation’s largest sexual violence organization, to design and implement this program.
- RALIANCE Business: Uber is teaming up with RALIANCE, leaders in sexual violence awareness and prevention, to create a resource center that will help companies adopt consistent, fact-based standards and strategies and improve how they respond to, prevent, and publicly report on sexual violence.
Uber provides more than 4 million rides on an average day, or about one every 45 seconds, the company notes. It did not say if there would be future reports, but noted it is “committed” to being “transparent” about its efforts to improve rider safety. The company has plenty of critics regarding its policies, but it is gaining some support.
“As an advocate who has been working in the movement to end sexual violence for the past 20 years, I welcome this unprecedented report,” said Karen Baker, CEO of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, which issued its own report examining Uber’s report, in a released statement.
“Efforts like this embolden our work for a safer future. By releasing this data publicly, Uber is confronting these challenging issues head-on rather than shying away from or minimizing the numbers. In fact, they made the intentional decision to be overinclusive, capturing data by accepting every report at face value.”