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Illustration by Security Management

Uber Releases First U.S. Safety Report

Uber released its first U.S. safety report this week—the only report of its kind for the rideshare industry, which has been under pressure to be more transparent with the public about security incidents involving riders and drivers.

“People have a right to know about the safety records of the companies and organizations they rely on every day,” Uber said in the executive summary of the report. “And we believe that publishing this data will help us develop best practices that will prevent serious safety incidents from occurring in the first place.”

Uber provides nearly 4 million trips in the United States each day, and the company said the vast majority of those trips end without safety-related issues.

“In the United States alone, more than 45 rides on Uber happen every second,” wrote Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, in a blog post about the report’s release. “At that scale, we are not immune to society’s most serious safety challenges, including sexual assault.”

The report examined three categories of critical safety incidents in 2017 and 2018 that Uber worked with the National Sexual Violence Resource Center and the Urban Institute to define: motor vehicle fatalities, fatal physical assault (murders), and sexual assault—further broken down into five categories of non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part, attempted non-consensual sexual penetration, non-consensual touching of a sexual body part, non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part, and non-consensual sexual penetration.

Based on these categories, Uber said there were 107 total fatalities in 2017 and 2018 that were reported in relation to using Uber that stemmed from 97 fatal crashes. Roughly 90 percent of these crashes occurred in urban areas, and the Uber-related motor vehicle fatality rate was 0.59 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2017 and 0.57 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled in 2018—about half the U.S. national average.

Uber also reported that there were 19 people killed in a fatal physical assault in 2017 and 2018—or 1 in every 122 million U.S. trips. Eight of those fatalities were riders, seven were drivers, and four were third parties using Uber.

A great deal of the report, however, was devoted to Uber’s findings on sexual assaults that occurred while using Uber. The company disclosed that 3,000 sexual assaults that occurred on U.S. rides were reported to Uber in 2018, including 235 rapes. Approximately 6,000 reports of sexual assault were reported to Uber in 2017 and 2018.

The company acknowledged that the number of sexual assaults may be higher because these incidents often go unreported. It also said that the number of reported sexual assaults may continue to go up as it improves its mechanisms to report them.

“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,” West explained. “And, most importantly, by bringing hard data to bear, we can make every trip safer for drives and riders alike.”

To improve the safety of Uber rides, the company tripled the size of its safety team to 300 people—up from 100 in 2017. It has also added new features, like its In-App Emergency Button, advanced background checks for drivers, and technology to check in with customers if a potential crash or unexpected stop is detected during a trip.

“We’re constantly pushing to do more on safety,” West said. “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 before their trip is even over.”

Uber has also committed to sharing the names of drivers who have been banned from its platform for serious safety incidents with other ridesharing companies. And in 2020, Uber will expand sexual misconduct and assault education to all of its U.S. drivers. The company is partnering with RAINN, the largest American sexual violence organization, to create and rollout the program.

And the publication of the Uber report will encourage the company to continue to create incentives to improve its safety, said Jeanne Christensen—a partner at the Wigdor law firm who has represented rape victims suing Uber—in an interview with The New York Times.

“The more the public is aware, the more the company and everyone else has to respond,” she said. “It’s such a part of daily life that everyone is going to take it. We’re already at that point. So now they just have to make it as safe as possible.”

Uber’s move to release its safety report has put pressure on other companies to do the same. A Lyft spokeswoman confirmed to The Washington Post that it is planning to release a safety report—but did not specify a timeline for its release.