Uber saw over 3,000 sexual assault claims and 67 deaths last year

The Uber app, image taken in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

More than 3,000 US-based Uber riders and drivers filed sexual assault claims and nearly 10 people were physically assaulted to the point of death in 2018, according to a landmark report by the ridesharing giant.

The 84-page report, released today, provided insight into the rate of motor vehicle and sexual assault incidences that occurred when Americans used the platform in 2017 and 2018.

(Source: Uber Safety Report 2017-18)

Report figures revealed that 58 people died from motor vehicle fatalities last year (whether it was an Uber driver, rider or a third party), and nine people died from fatal physical assaults.

Of the total 3,045 sexual assault reports that were filed in 2018, these were broken down into different categories, with the most common form of sexual assault being non-consensual touching of a sexual body part, of which there were 1,560 incidents in 2018.

(Source: Uber Safety Report 2017-18)

More sexual assault reports were made by riders (56 per cent) than drivers (42 per cent), but the difference was not as large as some may have expected, with the remaining 2 per cent of reports made by a third party or unknown.

In a post to the Uber website, chief legal officer Tony West said that the report was born out of a meeting “nearly two years ago” convened by CEO Dara Khosrowshahi that discussed the safety of drivers and riders.

“It was clear from this conversation that successfully achieving that mission required a deeper understanding of the toughest issues we face as a company, listening to the specific concerns and experiences shared by drivers and riders, and a close examination of how our technology could help us keep people safe,” West said.

Publishing a report that discussed these issues “is not easy,” he added.

“Most companies don’t talk about issues like sexual violence because doing so risks inviting negative headlines and public criticism. But we feel it’s time for a new approach,” he said.

“As someone who has prosecuted sex crimes and worked on these issues for more than 25 years, I can tell you that a new approach is sorely needed.

“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.”

Yahoo Finance has reached out to Uber Australia for domestic statistics.

An Uber spokesperson directed us to the following section of a Q&A of the report already published on the website:

“This was an intensive, nearly two-year effort and data integrity is really important if we want this type of reporting to have an impact. We’ll use what we learned in producing the US report to guide our next steps in other places.”

What’s Uber done about it all?

In 2017, Uber implemented a number of strategies to improve safety, including developing new technology, strengthening background screenings, launching new safety features, training support staff in a new way, updating policies and tripling the size of their safety team.

Uber’s background checks and screenings continually monitors and checks drivers for any new criminal offenses, and more than 40,000 drivers have been removed from the app due to continuous screening, the report said.

New safety features include in-app emergency button, RideCheck (which detects rare events like unexpectedly long tips on a trip or potential car crashes), Share My Trip/Follow My Ride (which lets the loved ones of a driver or rider to follow their tip in real time), anonymous phone number and addresses, a driving hours tool that forces drivers to go offline for 6 hours after 12 hours of driving, speeding alerts, and real-time ID checks.

In 2017, Uber created a specialised team to provide customer support to riders and drivers reporting serious safety incidents including sexual assault. Uber also removes the accused party’s access to the app while a review is being completed.

Survivors are also connected to third-party advocates and Uber has partnered with a number of prevention initiatives.

The ridesharing platform also revealed a number of safety features in the works, such as a text to 911, an Uber Survivor Support Hotline, sexual misconduct education for drivers, and on-trip reporting.

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