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  • The ride-sharing company Uber has issued a report on safety for 2017 and 2018, disclosing that riders have filed thousands of complaints from unwanted touching to physical violence, including rape.
  • The report says nearly 6000 sexual assault claims were filed during those two years and also says 19 people died from physical assaults during or after an Uber ride.
  • It’s worth noting that 2.3 billion rides on Uber took place during the two-year period, and nearly all of them were uneventful. Read the executive summary of Uber’s report.

    Uber’s website says its guidelines encourage “safety and respect for all,” but a just-released internal report shows that CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is right when he says that for Uber, safety is a “really hard problem.”

    That’s what Khosrowshahi wrote in a letter to Uber staff that made its way to Twitter just before the company released its report to the public today. The company found that thousands of serious sexual assaults happened as a result of Uber rides in the past two years.

    The numbers tell the story. The report covers the 2.3 billion rides that happened in the U.S. in 2017 and 2018 and makes public the numbers for three types of incidents: motor vehicle fatalities, fatal physical assault,s and sexual assaults. Khosrowshahi said 99.9 percent of all Uber rides in the U.S. in 2017 and 2018 ended without an issue. A small number (0.1 percent) resulted in a safety-related incident, and just 0.0003 percent of all the trips—or around 6900 trips—resulted in a reported sexual assault. He also said in his letter that as Uber has been tracking the numbers, sexual assault reports decreased 16 percent from 2017 to 2018 and were down another 17 or so percent in the first half of 2019. But the company told the New York Times that it received reports of 2936 sexual assaults in 2017 and 3045 in 2018.

    That sexual assault category was further broken down into five subcategories. Here they are, along with the frequency the company was made aware of:

    • Non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part (1 in every 2,000,000 completed trips)
    • Attempted non-consensual sexual penetration (about 1 in 4,000,000)
    • Non-consensual touching of a sexual body part (about 1 in every 800,000)
    • Non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part (1 in every 3,000,000)
    • Non-consensual sexual penetration (about 1 in 5,000,000)

      That means that five of every 14.8 million Uber rides—or one in every 2.96 million—result in some sort of reported sexual assault. Uber says that riders and drivers report assaults at roughly the same rate in these sexual assault categories. RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual-violence organization, says that in the general public, an American is sexually assaulted every 73 seconds.

      The numbers for fatalities and physical assaults were much lower. The report says there were a total of 97 fatal crash reports and 107 total fatalities reported in 2017 and 2018. Given the number of Uber rides conducted in this time, Uber says that’s about half the national rate. Of the 19 fatal physical assaults included in the report, eight were Uber riders, seven were drivers, and four were third-party individuals.

      Khosrowshahi’s letter says that while he knows that most companies don’t release this kind of internal information, “We came to the shared belief that being a true leader requires that we do the right thing, which means acting with transparency, embracing accountability, and making decisions without fear of bad headlines,” he wrote. “More importantly, keeping this information secret doesn’t make anyone safer.”

      Uber has introduced new safety features in the last few years, including an emergency button in the app and RideCheck, which tries to automatically determine if something odd is happening, “such as unexpected long stops on a trip or possible vehicle crashes,” and then notifies both the driver and the rider.

      Uber says it will release a new safety report every two years and that “we encourage all organizations—airline, taxi, ride sharing, home sharing, and hotel companies, as well as others—to share their safety records with their customers and exceed this report.”

      Uber says it will expand its sexual misconduct and assault education to all of its U.S. drivers, in partnership with RAINN.

      Uber’s largest competitor, Lyft, has not issued its own safety report, but it is also being sued over rape and sexual assault charges, and there have been Lyft drivers accused of assaulting riders.

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