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Uber reports more than 3,000 sexual assaults during U.S. rides in 2018

FILE - This Wednesday, June 21, 2017, file photo shows the building that houses the headquarters of Uber, in San Francisco.
FILE - This Wednesday, June 21, 2017, file photo shows the building that houses the headquarters of Uber, in San Francisco. AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File

Uber, as part of along anticipated safety report, revealed that more than 3,000 sexual assaults were reported during its U.S. rides in 2018.

That figure includes 229 rapes across the company’s 1.3 billion rides. Uber noted that drivers and riders were both attacked, and that some assaults occurred between riders.

READ MORE: Uber driver charged in connection with sexual assault investigations: Toronto police

The Thursday report, which the company hailed as the first of its kind, provides a rare look into the traffic deaths, murders and reported sexual assaults that took place during billions of annual rides arranged in the U.S. using Uber’s service. It is part of the company’s effort to be more transparent after years of criticism over its safety record.

In 2017, the company said 2,936 sexual assaults were reported. Uber bases its numbers on reports from riders and drivers — meaning the actual numbers could be much higher. Sexual assaults commonly go unreported.

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“I suspect many people will be surprised at how rare these incidents are; others will understandably think they’re still too common,” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted about the report. “Some people will appreciate how much we’ve done on safety; others will say we have more work to do. They will all be right.”

Uber’s share price dropped more than 1 per cent in after-hours trading.

Uber and competitor Lyft have faced harsh criticism for not doing enough to protect the safety of their riders and drivers. Dozens of women are suing Lyft, claiming the company should have done more to protect them from driver assaults. A Connecticut woman sued Uber last month, claiming she was sexually assaulted by her driver.

Uber under fire after video surfaces of alleged assault on Calgary mother
Uber under fire after video surfaces of alleged assault on Calgary mother

London refused to renew Uber’s license to operate in the city in November after the company was plagued with safety issues including concerns about impostor drivers. Uber said it will appeal the decision.

The companies have both formed partnerships with sexual assault prevention networks and other safety groups, and have touted their background check policies for drivers. But many say they haven’t gone far enough to protect passengers and drivers, who are contract workers for the companies.

“Keeping this information in the dark doesn’t make anyone safer,” Uber said in a statement announcing the report. It plans to release its safety report every two years going forward.

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Lyft said last year it would also release a safety report. A company spokeswoman confirmed Thursday that it “remained committed” to releasing a report, but did not say when.

READ MORE: Man who drove for Uber in Toronto charged after series of alleged sexual assaults

Mike Bomberger, a lawyer representing more than 100 victims of sexual assault in lawsuits against Uber and Lyft, applauded Uber for releasing the numbers. “One of the problems with both of these companies is that they have hidden and have tried to conceal the number of sexual assaults that occur in their vehicles,” he said.

In response, an Uber spokesperson pointed to the just-released report. Lyft called Bomberger’s charge “baseless.”

Bomberger said he believes 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the assaults in the Uber report could have been prevented by measures such as cameras in the cars recording rides and the companies reporting every assault they learn of to the police.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network said it appreciated Uber’s transparency.

Uber adds panic alarm for U.S. riders in effort to curb sexual assault, other forms of violence
Uber adds panic alarm for U.S. riders in effort to curb sexual assault, other forms of violence

“This is an issue that affects every institution in America,” RAINN press secretary Emily Robinson said in a statement. She added that organizations in every industry, including education, should “make a similar effort to track and analyze sexual misconduct within their communities.”

The report stated that Uber rides were involved in 97 reported crashes in 2017 and 2018, resulting in 107 deaths. The company said the figure represents about half of the national rate for fatal crashes.

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Sexual assault in the report is defined broadly into categories including 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.

The company also said Uber rides were involved in nine murders during 2018, and 10 during 2017.

Uber noted that the vast majority — 99.9 per cent — of its rides had no reported safety issues.