Dec 5, 2019 - Technology

Uber's first ever safety report cites 6,000 sex assaults in 2 years

Photo: ALASTAIR PIKE/AFP via Getty Images

In a long-awaited safety report, Uber disclosed on Thursday that during 2017 and 2018, U.S. users reported nearly 6,000 incidents of sexual assault of various kinds.

Why it matters: Uber (along with rival Lyft) has been criticized over the years not only for the occurrence of sexual assault and violence on rides, but also for its handling of these incidents, including attempts at downplaying or hiding them.

  • In 2017, the company pledged to release a report about what it calls "safety incidents" following several months of turmoil that led to the replacement of CEO Travis Kalanick with Dara Khosrowshahi, who has vowed to drastically change Uber's culture.
  • Rival Lyft, which has faced its own criticism for these issues, also vowed at the time to release similar data (and even collaborate with Uber). "We remain committed to releasing our own safety transparency report and working within the industry to share information about drivers who don’t pass our initial or continuous background checks or are deactivated from our platform," a Lyft spokesperson told Axios.

By the numbers:

  • Total number of sexual assault incidents: 2,936 in 2017, and 3,045 in 2018. Riders were 45% of the accused in those cases.
  • Total number of fatal physical assault incidents: 10 in 2017, and nine in 2018. Of the total, seven were drivers.
  • Total number of motor vehicle fatalities: 49 in 2017, and 58 in 2018.
  • Total number of rides: 1 billion in 2017, 1.3 billion in 2018.

Uber also included detailed descriptions of its safety policies and processes, including the number of driver applications it has turned down and how many it has deactivated for their behavior.

Between the lines: Throughout the report, Uber repeatedly emphasizes the low rates at which these incidents occur and compares its numbers to those in other social environments

Yes, but: Every single fatality or assault, rare or not, deserves to be taken with extreme seriousness.

Still: The additional context is also a reminder that violence and sexual assault are still incredibly prevalent in our society—with or without ride-hailing companies.

What they're saying: So far, advocates have praised the company for releasing its report, and are calling on more companies to do the same.

We appreciate Uber’s transparency in releasing data on sexual violence. ...We’d love to see organizations in every industry, including educational institutions, make a similar effort to track and analyze sexual misconduct within their communities.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network

An Uber official told Axios that the report is "true radical transparency," and pointed out that such reporting isn't required.

Go deeper: Read the full report.

The National Sexual Assault Hotline is available 24/7 via 1-800-656-4673 or chat. Learn more at RAINN.org.

Editor's note: The story has been updated with a statement from Lyft.

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