Over the last few years Uber -- among other ridesharing services -- has been accused of failing to respond adequately to reports of sexual assault and other crimes linked to those on its platform. Now the company has released its first safety report (PDF), along with a number of notes about steps it's taking to make things safer for passengers and drivers.
The nearly 6,000 reports of sexual abuse Uber said it has received over 2017 and 2018, or the 19 fatal physical assaults jump out of the pages of the lengthy report. While Uber correctly notes that even these are from just a fraction of a percent of the 2.3 billion trips taken during that period, each one is devastating for those involved.
While the report, commissioned two years ago by current CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, also accurately describes the problems as pervasive throughout society, it doesn't extend to an explanation of why methods for reporting and dealing with these issues is something that's happening after billions of trips, instead of before.
In the long run, we will be a better company for taking this step today—because I firmly believe that companies who are open, accountable, and unafraid are ultimately the companies that succeed. (3/3)— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) December 5, 2019
Uber mentioned developments like its In-app safety button, as well as new changes. It will share the names of deactivated drivers with other platforms for the first time, so they can't just start taking on passengers somewhere else, and next year it will expand sexual misconduct education training for drivers in a partnership with RAINN that will also include the creation of a Survivor Support hotline "that will provide confidential crisis support and specialized services to survivors."
- Deactivation sharing: We're committed to finding a way to share the names of drivers who have been banned from our platform for the most serious safety incidents with our ridesharing peers. We want companies to be able to use this information to protect their customers.
- New technology features: We're rolling out new features that allow riders to verify their driver with a secure PIN code, send a text message directly to 911 operators, and report safety incidents to Uber even before their trip is over.
- Uber Survivor Support Hotline: In 2020, Uber will partner with RAINN to provide a dedicated survivor hotline that will provide confidential crisis support and specialized services to survivors.
- Sexual misconduct education for all drivers: In 2020, Uber will expand sexual misconduct and assault education to all US drivers. We are partnering with RAINN, the nation's largest sexual violence organization, to design and implement this program.
- RALIANCE Business: Uber is teaming up with RALIANCE, leaders in sexual violence awareness and prevention, to create a resource center that will help companies adopt consistent, fact-based standards and strategies and improve how they respond to, prevent, and publicly report on sexual violence.
Changes you'll see in the app will include an option for a four digit PIN that helps drivers and riders verify each other, the national rollout of the ability to report non-safety issues during a ride and text-to-911 support within the app for both riders and drivers, as riders make up nearly half the accused parties on serious sexual assault categories.
Uber plans to release these reports every two years, and hopefully the changes it's making, as well as a focus on dealing with these kinds of issues, means there's a lot less to talk about in the next one.