Is Uber safe? Alarm over 6,000 reports of sexual assault in US

Uber has revealed it received 6,000 reports of sexual assault from passengers and drivers in the United States in just two years.

In an internally-conducted report on rides in 2017 and 2018, Uber revealed that passengers and drivers report assaults at roughly the same rate, meaning they’re equally at risk.

For some context, the reporting of assaults is still very rare with Uber saying 99.9% of rides are completed without any such incidence, or any safety related issues. It says the 0.1% of rides where there is support request for a safety-related concern “the majority of those concerns were about less-severe safety issues such as complaints of harsh braking or a verbal argument.”

In releasing the report (via BBC), Uber says it sharing the data to help it track progress and be more accountable, as well as strengthening its safety platform. The firm says that whenever it receives a complaint, the accused person (be it driver or passenger) loses access to the app during an investigation into the incident.

Despite a relatively even split in assault accursations in 2017 and 2018, the company does say reporting of incidents is falling. That’s because Uber undertook 300 million more rides in the US in 2018 than the year before.

In it’s definition within the report, Uber describes sexual assault as “any physical or attempted physical contact that is reported to be sexual in nature and without the consent of the user. This can include incidents within the taxonomy ranging from Attempted Touching of a Non-Sexual Body Part (e.g., a user trying to touch a person’s shoulder in a sexual/romantic way) to Non-Consensual Sexual Penetration.”

The company says that technology may be helping more victims of sexual assault come forward to the police because it has the potential to increase personal accountability or would be predators.

“For example, trip information and tracking in ridesharing apps may make it more likely for riders and drivers to report incidents,” the company wrote.

Uber says it doesn’t allow people with convictions for sexual assault in the last 7 years (as well as other serious offences) to become drivers, while 40,000 drivers in the US have been removed from the app due to its screening processes.

Last month Uber lost its licence to operate as a taxi provider in London (subject to appeal), partly due to safety concerns over drivers sharing accounts.

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