Uber has a history of abuse — and it's one that affects both drivers and passengers. After years of sexual assault cases, lawsuits, and one-off warning, the company released a report that details the exact scale of this problem.
In the Uber Safety report released on Thursday, the company reported 5,981 sexual assault cases from 2017-2018. In 2018 alone, there were 3,045 reported cases of sexual assault. The most frequent reports involved unwanted touching and 235 cases of rape. That amounts to about four rapes a week, as pointed out by NPR. While data suggests that 99.9% of rides do not incur any safety issues, and the production of this report is a step toward more safety and transparency, according to Uber, who is calling attention to the problem.
The two-year report included five types of sexual assault: non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part, attempted non-consensual sexual penetration, non-consensual touching of a sexual body part, non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part, and non-consensual sexual penetration. This does not include other types of sex crimes or misconduct, like masturbation or verbal threats.
But, why is Uber now releasing information that could be so damaging to their company? According to Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, it's because people have a right to know. "It's very important if we are going to consistently and continually raise the bar on safety," West told NPR's Up First podcast. "We have to be willing to share this information with the public."
With nearly 1.3 billion Uber rides taken last year, the company's transparency effort follows a slew of accusations and lawsuits from survivors of sexual assault in ride shares. Last year, 29-year old Samantha Stewart was murdered by Danueal Drayton who was suspected of using dating and ride share apps to lure victims. Stewart met Drayton on Tinder, then fled to Los Angeles where he sexually assaulted another woman he met in an UberPool.
These types of cases are not unique to just Uber. Earlier this year, a pregnant Lyft driver was stabbed to death by a passenger in Arizona. Kristina Howato was in her third trimester, but she and her unborn child did not survive the attack. Right now, 19 people are suing Lyft for rape and sexual assault claims, citing that the company continues to "stonewall" law enforcement. According to the suit, Lyft fails to involve police in reported assault cases, and also fails to report to users if drivers have ever been accused of sexual assault.
So, what exactly does Uber plan to do with this data, and how are they going to fix the problem? Many suggest that Uber should include dashboard cameras to decrease instances of threats, but with the company's current magnitude, representatives of Uber say it would take years before that could go into effect. They do, however, plan to roll out features like adding driver PIN codes, and direct contact to 9-1-1.
In fact, Uber feels that for the most part, the app is relatively safe when considering that these numbers are a small fraction of a much larger picture. Uber is the only ride share company to release a report of this magnitude, and there is currently no comprehensive study examining the scale of sexual violence in regular taxi and limousine services.
"At the scale that Uber operates, we're going to see both the good and the bad that happens in society because we're operating so many trips every single day," West said to NPR. "One of the unfortunate but sad truths is that sexual assault, sexual violence is far more prevalent in American society than a lot of people recognize. That exists in companies, it exists in classrooms, it exists on university campuses and homes. Uber's not immune to that."