Uber’s damning sexual assault report puts pressure on Lyft to show its hand

By Christopher Zara

After years of promising to be more transparent about safety issues on its platform, ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies released its first-ever safety report (December 13, 2019), showing almost 6,000 reports of sexual assault in 2017 and 2018, including 464 reports of rape.

Even for a company as controversial as Uber has often been in its decade of existence, the numbers are staggering. And yet, Uber braced for the inevitable backlash and released them anyway, in an extensive 71-page document that includes details on fatal crashes, incidents against drivers, and various other safety issues.

Now that the information is out there, the pressure is on Uber’s biggest rival to do the same.

Lyft has yet to release safety data that reaches anywhere near the same level of detail, and it’s unclear if it ever will. Reached for comment, a Lyft spokesperson told Fast Company that a safety report is in the works but did not respond to questions about when the report would be released or what type of information it would include.

“Safety is fundamental to Lyft,” the company said in a statement. “We remain committed to releasing our own safety transparency report and working within the industry to share information about drivers who don’t pass our initial or continuous background checks or are deactivated from our platform. It is Lyft’s goal to make the US ridesharing industry the safest form of transportation for everyone.”

The company says it has released more than 15 new safety features in just the last few months, including in-app emergency services, mandatory feedback for lower-rated rides, and “daily continuous criminal background monitoring of all of our drivers.” It’s also partnered with RAINN, a group that fights sexual violence, on safety education for drivers.

Still, Lyft has found itself the focus of increasing criticism in the wake of recent lawsuits from riders claiming to have been sexually assaulted by drivers. Just this week, 19 women sued the company, as the New York Times reported, in addition to 14 others who filed a suit in September.

Chief among the complaints are troubling allegations that Lyft is effectively silencing victims by not being forthcoming with data that could assist law enforcement with investigations. Lyft does issue its own transparency report, which includes a state-by-state breakdown of how many law-enforcement requests it receives, but the report does not specify the types of crimes being alleged.

It’s understandable why Lyft wouldn’t be eager to make headlines for the wrong reasons by disclosing its number of sexual assault reports. Although the number will likely be smaller than what Uber reported (December 13, 2019), as Lyft is a smaller company, it may not do much to help Lyft’s image as a kinder, gentler version of Uber—an image it was all too happy to capitalize on at the height of Uber’s controversies.


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