More than 3,000 Uber passengers reported sexual assaults in 2018, the ride-sharing company revealed in its first-ever safety report on Friday. Nine passengers were murdered and 58 riders were killed in crashes last year, the report said.
These incidents, which include 229 rapes, represent just a fraction of the more than 1.3bn rides Uber facilitated in the US in the past year, but they come at a time when the company is increasingly under scrutiny for worker and rider safety conditions.
“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.”
In 2017, the company counted 2,936 reported sexual assaults during 1bn US trips. Uber bases its numbers on reports from riders and drivers, meaning the actual numbers could be much higher. Sexual assaults commonly go unreported.
The ride-hailing company noted that drivers and riders were both attacked, and that some assaults occurred between riders.
“I suspect many people will be surprised at how rare these incidents are; others will understandably think they’re still too common,” Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, tweeted about the report. “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.”
At an October hearing, a House committee called on Uber and its rideshare competitor Lyft to improve safety measures. The companies have been criticized over background check processes and responses to sexual assaults during rides.
More than 20 unnamed passengers are suing Lyft over alleged sexual assault by drivers in a lawsuit filed this week, and in another lawsuit, Lyft customer Alison Turkos is suing the Uber rival on 11 counts, including vicarious liability for assault with a deadly weapon, sexual assault, sexual battery and breach of contract, after her driver allegedly kidnapped her, drove her across state lines, and raped her.
The report from Uber focused solely on rides in the US and not the 65 other countries where Uber operates, including India, where a driver was sued in 2017 for allegedly raping a passenger.
Uber began examining the issue of sexual assault in late 2017 and has worked with organizations such as the National Sexual Violence Resource Center to improve its reporting process for sexual violence and other safety issues. It has tripled the size of its safety team to 300 employees since 2017, according to the New York Times, and is set to launch a hotline in partnership with the not-for-profit organization Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (Rainn).
The company voluntarily released the figures, which underscore the problem of sexual violence that exists across all industries, said Erin Robinson, Rainn’s press secretary.
“This is an issue that affects every institution in America, and understanding the problem is an important step in the effort to solve it,” she said. “We look forward to working with Uber to further its goal of ensuring safe and respectful ride share experiences for every rider and driver.”
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