Uber has disclosed that 3,000 sexual assaults were reported on its U.S. rides last year, the first time it has revealed the scale of the safety problem that exists at ride-hailing companies.
The reported assaults were part of Uber’s long-awaited safety study, published Thursday amid widespread and ongoing criticism of its safety practices and pressure to increase its transparency about the issue.
In the lengthy report, which divides sexual misconduct into 21 categories but focuses on the five most serious, Uber said it recorded 235 rapes last year and thousands more reports of assault that could involve unwanted touching, kissing or attempted rape. The reports involved drivers and passengers. The company tallied roughly 6,000 reports of those types of assault in 2017 and 2018.
Uber has a unit devoted to handling the most sensitive safety reports, but a September investigation in The Washington Post found that investigators are instructed to keep the company’s interests foremost, including through restrictions on their ability to report apparent felonies to police and a ban at the time on sharing information with competitor Lyft about possibly dangerous drivers. The restrictions meant that some drivers who were banned from Uber or Lyft for violations like poor driving or even assaults on passengers could, with impunity, simply register as a driver for the other company.
More than 20 workers from the division, known as the Special Investigations Unit, said it is designed primarily to shelter the company from legal responsibility and quietly resolve serious allegations to avoid press or regulatory scrutiny. Uber has denied those claims.