Uber has for the first time in its history released a comprehensive safety report about its rides in the US spanning the full length of 2018 and part of 2017. The report discloses that 3,045 sexual assaults occurred during Uber trips last year. Additionally, Uber says nine people were murdered during Uber rides and 58 people died in auto-related crashes. The numbers represent the first set of publicly available data regarding the safety of Uber’s ride-hailing platform and how it compares to national US averages.
Uber says users took 3.1 million trips per day on the its platform during the period between 2017 and the end of 2018 in which it was gathering data, and there were also 1.3 billion trips in total in the US last year. Uber says there were 36,000 auto-related deaths in 2018 and 20,000 homicides in 2017, to put the company’s incident numbers in context.
Of the 3,045 reported sexual assault cases in 2018 (up from 2,936 in 2017), Uber says 235 were rapes and the remainder were varying levels of assault. A vast majority involved unwanted kissing or groping, Uber says, and it broke down such assaults into 21 categories. Drivers are reporting assaults at roughly the same rate as riders, the report specifies, including across the five most serious forms of sexual assault.
However, those numbers may be far higher in reality, given sexual assault often goes unreported. Uber’s only provided contextual data point in a blog post announcing the safety report findings is that “nearly 44% of women in the US have been a victim of sexual violence in their lifetime.”
“The numbers are jarring and hard to digest,” Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, told The New York Times. “What it says is that Uber is a reflection of the society it serves.” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshani also released a statement publicly on Twitter saying he “suspects many people will be surprised at how rare these incidents are; others will understandably think they’re still too common.” He goes on to say, “They will all be right.”
I suspect many people will be surprised at how rare these incidents are; others will understandably think they’re still too common. 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. (2/3)
— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) December 5, 2019
The report itself, which totals 84 pages in length, will likely be scrutinized for months to come as both Uber and Lyft, as well as regulators and those involved in numerous lawsuits, grapple with the findings, figure how to improve safety on both platforms, and get justice for victims of ride-hailing crime.
Earlier this week, 19 women sued Lyft for allegedly failing to prevent sexual assault perpetrated by drivers on the platform and for doing little to investigate the complaints. A California woman who says she was raped by a Lyft driver in 2017 also sued the company in September over failing to keep riders safe, while 14 additional women sued Lyft earlier in September over its handling of sexual assault complaints.
Uber is also facing numerous lawsuits regarding assault that occurs on the platform. A woman from Washington DC sued the platform in April of this year for negligence and consumer protection violations after she says a driver sexually assaulted her. A woman in India, who says she was raped by an Uber driver in 2014, sued Uber in 2017, following an Uber executive’s decision to illegally disclose parts of her medical records to other Uber employees, including then-CEO Travis Kalanick.
Uber says it has removed more than 40,000 drivers from the platform since last year using improved automated screening technology to check criminal histories and past driving records. The company has also added selfie check-ins for drivers to verify identities before drivers start picking up passengers, added buttons for reporting when a ride might be suspiciously veering off route, and options for immediately alerting authorities in the event of an emergency. Just last month, Uber said it would also start audio-recording rides to improve safety. It plans to test the approach in Brazil and Mexico before bringing it to the US.