Uber has admitted to receiving more than 3,000 reports of sexual assaults between its drivers and its passengers in the US last year.
In its first ever safety report, the taxi-hailing company said that it had been told of 3,045 such incidents in 2018, including 235 rapes and 280 attempted rapes, as well as 1,560 instances of unwanted intimate touching.
It also reported 58 deaths from collisions, most of which involved pedestrians or cyclists, and 9 murders. It said that more than 40,000 drivers had been removed from the app because they had committed criminal offences.
The figures were only a tiny fraction of Uber’s 1.3bn rides in the US last year, representing just 0.0003pc of the whole. But the true figure may be higher, because a large majority of rapes and sexual assaults are never reported to the police and may therefore also not be reported to Uber.
They come as Uber fights to keep its operating licence in London after city officials ruled that it was not a “fit and proper” company, accusing it of a “pattern of failures” that “placed passengers and their safety at risk”.
According to Transport for London, a glitch in Uber’s identification system allowed 14,000 trips to be handled by unauthorised drivers masquerading as authorised ones, and in some cases by drivers who did not have taxi licences at all.
Tony West, Uber’s chief legal officer, said that the report was the product of a “21-month effort” ordered by chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over the company in 2017 amidst intense controversy about its safety record and its handling of rape cases.
Mr West said: “Voluntarily publishing a report that discusses these difficult safety issues is not easy. Most companies don’t talk about issues like sexual violence because doing so risks inviting negative headlines and public criticism.
“But we feel it’s time for a new approach… 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.”
He said that Uber had tripled the size of its safety team since 2017, and now has more than 300 people working on the subject. He added that the company is testing a feature that would allow passengers to secretly record audio from their trips.
The data shows that Uber drivers are sexually assaulted almost as often as passengers, who were the accused party in 45pc of reports. That was not the case for reports of rape, however, of which 92pc named a passenger of the victim.
Uber has added numerous safety features since 2017, including tighter background checks, an emergency button inside the Uber app, an automated system which detects “unexpected long stops” or potential crashes, and an option allowing passengers to share their location with a friend or loved one in real time.
Even so, reports of sexual assaults continue to surface, including ongoing lawsuits by victims who accuse the company of failing to protect them. Uber stressed that the overall numbers it reported were small for its size, noting that there were around 20,500 instances of “unwanted sexual contact” last year in the US military, which has about 1.4m members.