Uber Responds to Sexual Assault Reports with App Update
Uber is rolling out a new safety feature allowing passengers to share their location with police via the app. The new feature responds to recent reports of sexual assault by people using the ridesharing service–over 100 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault in recent years.
Jeanne Christensen, an attorney currently representing 14 victims, told CNN that Uber has tried but failed to keep the story quiet by encouraging individual arbitration. For the women she is representing and others like them, it is good that Uber has been forced to begin responding, instead of ignoring the situation or trying to keep it quiet. Christensen also says that, based on her observations, “victims tend to be female and petite, live alone, and were inebriated at the time of the alleged assault.” Many would probably have considered Uber to be a comparably safer option to transport themselves home in the state they were in, given some of the alternatives, but these women found themselves in a bad situation anyway.
Uber plans to offer a similar version of the feature for drivers sometime during the summer, reasoning that if a risk is present for passengers, it is also present for drivers. The new feature is more time efficient than Uber’s current safety feature for drivers. The current one involves pressing an emergency button on the Uber interface that connects the driver to the police. The driver then shares the necessary information, including location, verbally. Techspot reports that “even if the feature isn’t used all that often, its presence alone could be enough to deter people from acting out.” CNN reports that Uber has also been updating its policies and background checks on drivers to help prevent this kind of incident in the future.