Uber uncovers 3,000 sexual assault claims last year in review

Ride-hailing company released safety report detailing allegations involving drivers or passengers

Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP

Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP

 

Uber found more than 3,000 allegations of sexual assaults involving drivers or passengers on its platform in the US last year, part of an extensive and long-awaited review in response to public safety concerns.

The ride-hailing company released an 84-page safety report on Thursday, seeking to quantify the misconduct and deaths that occur on its system and argue that its service is safer than alternatives.

US customers took about 1.3 billion trips last year, Uber said. About 50 people have died in Uber collisions annually for the past two years, at a rate about half the national average for automotive fatalities, according to the company. Nine people were killed in physical assaults last year, Uber said.

Uber drivers reported nearly as many allegations of sexual assault as passengers, who made 56 per cent of the claims. There is little comparable data on assaults in taxis or other transportation systems, and experts have said the attacks are widely under-reported. The assault claims reported to Uber ranged from unwanted kissing to forcible penetration.

“Uber is very much a reflection of society,” said Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer who helped spearhead the two-year research effort. “The sad, unfortunate fact is that sexual violence is more prevalent in our society than people think. People don’t like to talk about this issue.”

Uber had committed more than a year ago to release a safety study, a promise Lyft made soon after. Lyft, the second-biggest ride-hailing provider in the US, has yet to publish a report. On Thursday, Uber said it would regularly share data with Lyft and other companies about drivers accused of serious safety lapses and continue publishing safety reports every two years.

Uber has faced a steady stream of complaints in court across the country over driver misconduct, and Lyft has recently seen an explosion in legal claims by passengers. Just in California, at least 52 riders have sued Lyft this year over allegations they were assaulted or harassed by their drivers, according to filings reviewed by Bloomberg.

Beyond the US

Uber has faced similar complaints in countries beyond the US. The company was sued in 2017 by a woman who alleged top executives violated her privacy after one of its drivers in India allegedly raped her.

Regulators in London cited uncertainty about Uber’s ability to ensure the well-being of its passengers as a reason they revoked the company’s license to operate there last week. Uber will be able to continue operating in the UK capital as it appeals the decision. Dara Khosrowshahi, the company’s chief executive, said at an event earlier this week that “a precursor to trust is transparency.”

Uber disclosed five categories of sexual assault allegations. In 2018, Uber received 1,560 reports of non-consensual touching of a sexual body part, 594 reports of non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part, 376 reports of non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part, 280 reports of attempted non-consensual sexual penetration and 235 reports of non-consensual sexual penetration.

Uber opted not to disclose many other troubling forms of sexual misconduct that it had previously identified as possible reporting categories. For instance, the company didn’t say how many times drivers and riders made inappropriate comments to one another, nor did it disclose incidents of indecent exposure. – Bloomberg