Uber sexual assault report shows ridesharing “can be a dangerous way to travel”

By Lucy Ingham

A report into safety during Uber rides in the US has revealed that there were over 3,000 sexual assault incidents in 2018 alone.

The report, released today by Uber, is the first of its kind to be produced by the ridesharing company.

In addition to the 3,000+ sexual assault incidents, which include 229 rapes, the report also detailed nine murders of passengers and the further death of 59 passengers in crashes.

However, these account for only a tiny minority of rides, with Uber conducting 1.3 billion journeys in the US in 2018.

“I suspect many people will be surprised at how rare these incidents are; others will understandably think they’re still too common,” said Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, in a tweet 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.”

While experts are welcoming the transparent approach Uber is taking, the news is drawing concern.

“At least on this occasion there is some good news as well as bad news coming from Uber,” said Professor John Colley, Associate Dean of Warwick Business School.

“The good news is increased transparency as they are now publishing data on the number of sex attacks in the USA.

“The bad news is that 3,000 attacks in a year is a serious risk for passengers and suggests that the level of safety controls within Uber is not adequate.”

Uber sexual assault report raises concerns during London appeal

The release of the report comes as Uber is battling to keep its licence to operate in London, after having its renewal request rejected by Transport for London in part due to safety concerns.

And while this data relates to the US, it is still likely to draw considerable interest from decision makers over the issue.

“This supports the action of TfL and London Mayor Sadiq Khan in holding Uber to account over their reporting and controls,” said Colley, adding that the report is likely to increase the focus on safety when using the ridesharing app, particularly when it comes to sexual assault incidents.

“There is a tendency to focus on the employment opportunities and cheap transport elements,” he said.

“In reality it can be a dangerous way to travel and there is little doubt it causes congestion and contributes to climate change.

“There are studies which show that many people take an Uber rather than public transport or walk. Now we know that it isn’t safe for women travellers. Is it really in the public‘s best interest?”

He also argued that it refocuses attention on concerns around bringing Uber into the black.

“It also begs the question, will the company ever make money when it needs to invest more to ensure passengers are kept safe?”

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