A recent, unprecedented report from Uber revealed a disturbingly high number of violent and sexual crimes among its drivers and users, but it is nothing new.
For the first time in the company’s history, Uber (NYSE: UBER) decided to release the findings of a comprehensive safety report on its rides in the U.S. spanning 2017 and 2018. The ride-sharing giant’s stock understandably dropped following the release of the findings, but Uber has been in freefall since its IPO earlier this year.
The report in question makes for some very uneasy reading, disclosing that 3,045 sexual assaults occurred during Uber trips last year. Additionally, Uber says nine people were murdered during Uber rides and 58 people died in auto-related crashes. The numbers represent the first set of publicly available data regarding the safety of Uber’s ride-hailing platform and how it compares to national U.S. averages.
To put this into context, the company also revealed national data figures to coincide, which included 36,000 auto-related deaths in 2018 and 20,000 homicides in 2017.
What is Uber doing about this?
The sad truth of the matter is that this is not an Uber specific problem — it’s a case that the data is now available. Since the concept of the taxi was first invented, nasty events have happened in them, however, now Uber is giving us a view of it.
In a similar vein, every night around the world in a tiny fraction of one percent of hotel rooms, people do horrible things to other people. We just don’t think about it. Airbnb has a massive Trust and Safety team that is charged with keeping this number as close to zero as possible. Unfortunately, it will likely never hit zero.
Unfortunately for Uber — whose stock price fell nearly 3% following the report — it seems to be a case of shooting the messenger.
Arch-rivals Lyft (NASDAQ: LYFT) will surely have the same problems as Uber, but the company has not disclosed information yet. In early December, it was reported that 19 women were suing Lyft for failing to prevent sexual assaults perpetrated by the drivers they had hailed using the app, as well as complaints against Lyft’s alleged lack of concern for the issue.
Lyft has since announced that it would be releasing its own report but did not specify when this would be made available.
Uber is also facing numerous lawsuits regarding an assault that occurred on the platform in several different countries. Uber also disclosed that it had removed up to 40,000 drivers from the platform since 2018 using improved automated screening technology to check criminal histories and past driving records. The company has also added selfie check-ins for drivers who must now verify their identity before collecting passengers, as well as adding services for customers to report suspicious behavior whilst using the ride-share. From 2020, Uber will also be audio-recording rides to improve safety, with testing to begin in Mexico and Brazil next month.
Is all of this enough though?
Is this Uber’s final nail in the coffin?
Despite the severity of these issues which have been brought to light, the overall reaction against Uber does not appear to be hurting the company as much as past events.
The #deleteUBER campaign which has appeared on social media in recent years has not seen nearly as much activity following this report, as it has with events such as in November when Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi referred to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government as a “mistake.”
Uber’s decision to release these figures may have knocked $1.5 billion off of its value, but it shows a company willing to operate with more transparency. Despite knowing that it would surely cause a widespread backlash at a time when it is losing important operating licenses — just this month London canceled the company’s operation in the city — Uber released the figures anyway.
Could Uber be turning a corner in its ethically-questionable business practices?
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