“While we can’t comment on pending litigation, we will continue to keep safety at the heart of our work.” These words finished a statement issued by Uber in response to news that over 500 women are ready to sue the rideshare service over allegations that they were “kidnapped, sexually assaulted, sexually battered, raped, falsely imprisoned, stalked, harassed, or otherwise attacked” by drivers summoned using the app. The lawsuit also claims that the company – which defends itself by insisting that its drivers are not employees but merely contractors working on the company’s behalf – has known about its ongoing sexual assault problem since 2014.
The numbers support such a conclusion. For a company that proclaims to “keep safety at the heart of our work,” it’s doing a miserable job of it. In the second safety report issued by the company on the conduct of its drivers, Uber revealed that 3,824 reports of the most severe categories of sexual assault had been received between 2019 and 2020. The number actually represents an increase over the 3,000 sexual assaults reported in its first safety report.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs insist that the company can and must do more to protect riders from predatory drivers. Saying that Uber’s response to its sexual assault crisis among its drivers “has been slow and inadequate, with horrific consequences,” one plaintiffs’ attorney outlined simple steps that the company could take to address the problem rather than just talking about it. “There is so much more that Uber can be doing to protect riders,” he said. “Adding cameras to deter assaults, performing more robust background checks on drivers, creating a warning system when drivers don’t stay on a path to a destination.”
For a company that was born out of the technology made possible by our current digital age, Uber appears unwilling to harness even the slightest bit of it to protect its customers.