Uber Adds More Safety Features, But Will They Be Enough?
Another day, another Uber controversy. It seems like the popular ride-sharing app will never see the end of its legal struggles. Some of the buzz is positive–Uber recently announced that it’s expanding and beefing up safety features. However, other recent headlines about the company cannot be considered anything but incredibly negative. For example, yet another rape accusation has come to light. Overall, as Uber continues to grow, so do safety concerns, and seemingly, safety features.
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A Philadelphia woman has come forward with allegations that she was raped by her Uber driver on February 6, and then essentially held captive in the car while he drove around for two hours following the assault. While she evidently brought the claims to the police, Uber claims that it didn’t learn about it until much later. A rep for the company told Philadelphia Magazine, who broke the story:
Our thoughts and prayers are with our rider. Upon learning of the incident, we immediately reached out to the Philadelphia Police Department to assist in their investigation and support their efforts in any way we can. As the investigation continues, the driver’s access to the Uber platform has been suspended.
New controversies for Uber aren’t just popping up here in the states. Two Uber drivers in Ottawa, Canada, recently pleaded guilty to operating unlicensed taxis. There have also been very high profile sexual assault allegations in France and India.
It’s in response to all of these developments, as well as others like them in the past and potential for more in the future, that Uber is launching new programs and initiatives focusing on safety. The additions to Uber’s safety measures will include things like incident response teams to investigate anything that may happen over the course of an Uber ride, and further review of things like quality assurance. The company will also expand its work with law enforcement, including in India where there will be a button programmed into the Uber app allowing riders to directly call law enforcement.
While some of these features seem promising, Uber still sometimes struggles to follow through, as evidenced by the United Nations Women’s partnership debacle from a few weeks back.
Uber and UN Women announced a plan to work together to create jobs for female drivers and released a jointly signed letter on Uber’s website. However, after some backlash and safety concerns, UN Women pulled out of the agreement. Some of that backlash included a statement from the International Transport Workers Federation, which stated:
The creation of one million precarious, informal jobs will not contribute to women’s economic empowerment and represents exactly the type of structural inequality within the labor market that the women’s movement has been fighting for decades. Uber’s practices are defined by an aggressive informalization of an industry that was already deregulated three decades ago
It’s clear that Uber wants to make changes, but it’s certainly struggled to do so in the past. Perhaps it’s a side effect of being a young company that experienced a lot of growth very quickly, or just inherent to the nature of a business as informal as ridesharing. Either way, Uber needs to reform–and let’s hope that it sticks this time.