Uber lost its license to operate in London a few weeks ago. Transport for London explained that this was due to “…a pattern of failures by the company, including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk.”
Just a few days later, on December 6, Uber released a safety report on their operations in the U.S. In this report Uber summarized data from 2017 and 2018. The report concludes that “99.9% of Uber trips end without any safety-related issue at all.” Specifically:
• 0.1% of trips had a support request for a safety-related concern, and the majority of those concerns were about less-severe safety issues such as complaints of harsh braking or a verbal argument.
• 0.0003% of trips had a report of a critical safety incident, which are the incidents referenced in this report.
Even if this is off by 10x (due to under reporting or data categorization errors), only 1% of trips have a safety issue. That seems pretty small. On the other hand, while the percentages look small, this still totals over 3000 reported sexual assaults in 2018. People perceive Uber and Lyft to be safe because the platform identifies the driver and tracks the location of the rider. But the technology has some known flaws. Flaws that drivers use to escape identification or continue driving after they should be suspended.
Given this data, is a typical Uber trip less safe than taking a taxi or public transit? We don’t have any data for these other forms of transit, so it’s impossible to say. In general I think the Uber report reflects American society more than anything else. The problem of assault isn’t limited to Uber. And in fact, platforms like Uber have the potential to improve safety.
More companies and public agencies should release this type of data. Uber has a solid history of bad public policies and poor customer service. But in this case they’re leading the peer-to-peer industry in a good direction.
Read more about the safety benefits of Uber while traveling: How Uber Transforms Travel