Uber discloses over 3,000 sexual assaults arose from US rides in 2018

In its first safety report, the ride-sharing company provides figures for the fatal crashes, murders, and sexual assaults that occurred through its platform.

Uber on Thursday published its first report into unsafe incidents occurring on its ride-sharing platform, disclosing that over 3,000 sexual assaults happened during rides in the United States in 2018, while nine people were murdered and 58 died from vehicle crashes.

The Uber's US Safety Report 2017-18 [PDF] provides information about Uber's actions on safety, as well as data on the most serious safety incidents reported on the ride-sharing platform in 2017 and 2018.

The ride-sharing giant said the safety report was conducted with the intent of providing transparency and accountability around its app for both riders and drivers. 

"Confronting sexual violence requires honesty, and it's only by shining a light on these issues that we can begin to provide clarity on something that touches every corner of society. And, most importantly, by bringing hard data to bear, we can make every trip safer for drivers and riders alike," the company's chief legal officer, Tony West, said in the executive summary of the report. 

For sexual assault related incidents, there were 2,059 instances that occurred in 2017, the report said. This figure increased to 3,045 in 2018, which the company largely attributed to the 300 million additional trips it provided in 2018 compared to 2017. Year-on-year, this translates to an approximate 16% decrease in sexual assault incident rates. 

Of these incidents, riders were accused as the perpetrator 45% of the time. 

"Drivers are victims, too," the report said.

Uber noted, however, that while reports of sexual assaults declined by approximately 16% from 2017 to 2018, the amount of reported cases could increase as more victims become aware of Uber's assault prevention and reporting initiatives. 

It added that the numbers published in the safety report were largely dependent on victims providing information about their sexual assault.

From 2017 to 2018, there were 107 total fatalities across 97 fatal crashes reported in relation to the Uber app. The Uber-related motor vehicle fatality rate for 2017 was 0.59 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles travelled; it was 0.57 fatalities per 100 million miles travelled in 2018. According to Uber, approximately 90% of Uber-related fatal crashes occurred in urban areas.

The report also disclosed that 10 "fatal physical assaults" arose from the Uber platform in 2017 and nine in 2018. Eight of these victims were passengers, seven were drivers, and four were third parties such as bystanders outside of Uber vehicles, according to the report. 

Throughout the report, the ride-sharing giant also emphasised that it would continue to invest more into protection for riders and drivers, noting that 99.9% of trips ended without any safety-related issue. Uber implemented various safety features in September ranging from the ability to directly text 911 emergency responders to a new technology that uses ultrasound waves for automatically verifying a ride.

In explaining its background checks, the report revealed that 76% of the more than one million prospective drivers who failed Uber's screening process were disqualified during the MVR check, which screens for people driving under the influence, reckless driving, and leaving the scene of a crash. 

Uber also provided an estimate for the overall occurrence rate of sexual assault in 2019, which it expects will drop 17-20% when compared to rates from 2018.

Over the past few years, hundreds of passengers and drivers have come forward alleging sexual assault during rides. Several lawsuits have been brought against Uber by people saying they were raped and groped by drivers. Similar allegations have also been made against Uber's rival Lyft, which has had at least 55 women file or join lawsuits against the company since August.  

Uber's VP and global head of community operations Troy Stevenson also disclosed last month that his company focused too heavily on adding people to its platform, rather than investing in a long-term business model.

The next safety report will be published in two years' time.

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