Uber says nearly 1K sexual assault incidents reported in the U.S. in 2020
Even as its ridership was decimated by the pandemic in 2020, Uber recorded 141 reports of rape on its platform in the United States, the company disclosed in its safety report released Thursday.
The 78-page report, which covers 2019 and 2020, is the second-ever Uber has released regarding safety incidents following a CNN investigation into sexual assault and abuse on the ride-hailing platform four years ago.
In its latest report, Uber said it received 3,824 reports of the five most severe categories of sexual assault, which range from "non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part" to "non-consensual sexual penetration," or rape. That's down from the 5,981 reports it recorded in 2017 and 2018, per its first report released in December 2019. Uber said that riders were the accused party 43% of the time in sexual assault incident reports, similar to its previous report (45%).
Notably, Uber's total number of US trips over the two year period fell to 2.1 billion down from 2.3 billion in the first report, and average trips fell from 3.1 million to 2.8 million per day. The company notes that the rate of sexual assault reports decreased by 38% from the first report to the second.
The 141 rape reports in 2020 mark a decline from 2019, in which it recorded 247 reports. During the same period, total trips in the United States fell to 650 million in 2020, from 1.4 billion trips in 2019, according to the report. When it comes to rape reports, such incidents made up 0.00002% of total trips.
"The change in rate of sexual assault reports over time may have been impacted by a number of factors, including how the COVID-19 pandemic altered usage of the platform as well as Uber's safety and transparency efforts," Uber said in the report. "But each reported incident represents a harrowing lived experience for the survivor. Even one report is one report too many."
About 91% of the victims of rape were riders and about 7% of the victims were drivers. Women made up 81% of the victims while men comprised about 15% (nearly double that of the first report).
The report touts the effectiveness of various safety measures the company has implemented over the years. In 2018, it introduced continuous background checks on drivers using technology that monitors for new criminal offense reports. It said in the report that this feature has resulted in more than 80,000 drivers being removed from its platform to date.
Uber also reported 20 fatalities as a result of physical assaults over the two-year period, 15 of which were riders. Uber notes that the increase is "similar to national homicide and aggravated assault statistics beginning in 2020 during the pandemic." It reported 101 motor vehicle fatalities occurred stemming from Uber-related crashes. The report claims that the motor vehicle fatality rate connected to Uber's platform in both 2019 and 2020 is approximately "half the national average."
Uber, followed by Lyft, first pledged to put together a safety transparency report in response to a 2018 CNN investigation into drivers on the platform accused of sexual assault or abuse by passengers since 2014, based on publicly available data including police reports. After CNN began asking questions about sexual assaults, Uber announced increased safety measures such as a partnership with RapidSOS, a company that sends a rider's location and relevant information to a local police agency when the rider uses the emergency button in the Uber app, and the company revamped its approach to background checks.
Following Uber's first report, the California Public Utilities Commission fined Uber $59 million for failing to turn over additional data on sexual assaults and harassment incidents on its platform. The California regulator later drastically reduced the fine as part of a settlement agreement approved in December 2021, with Uber agreeing to pay $9 million toward safety-related initiatives.
Lyft, meanwhile, released its first ever safety report in October 2021, disclosing that it received 4,158 reports of sexual assault on its platform from 2017 to 2019. Lyft, unlike Uber, has not made public any commitment to release future reports on the topic.
Earlier this month, Lyft agreed to a US$25 million settlement with shareholders pertaining to statements and disclosures about its business, including specifically around assault-related incidents, ahead of going public in 2019.
In March 2021, Uber and Lyft announced they would share the names of drivers who were deactivated over the most severe safety incidents including sexual assaults, which range from non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part to rape. The information sharing is being managed by a third-party consumer reporting agency, Hire Right. Uber's new report provides no updates on this partnership and results since its launch.
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