It was the first time Uber released findings on the crimes occurring during its rides. And the company was quick to note that at 1.3 billion rides in the U.S. last year, a small fraction of incidents occurred.
Indeed, the number of ways Uber tried to put those horrific crimes into context might surprise you. In just a few paragraphs, the company used a variety of stats to prove, in its own words, that it's not just an "Uber thing."
First, Uber talked about the more than 36,000 people who died in car crashes last year and the 20,000 people who were homicide victims in 2017. Uber also added that "nearly 44 percent of women in the U.S. have been a victim of sexual violence in their lifetime--which means that more than 52 million women live with that experience every day."
Before the company got into its own stats, it noted that "every form of transportation is impacted by these issues. For example, the NYPD received 1,125 complaints of sex offenses in the transit system during the same time period covered by this report."
The company wasn't done. Uber added that it conducts more than 45 rides each second in the U.S. With that many rides, the company said, incidents are bound to happen.
"At that scale, we are not immune to society's most serious safety challenges, including sexual assault," Uber said.
But none of that should discount the fact that there were nearly 6,000 sexual assaults in Uber rides in the past two years. It also shouldn't discount that sexual assaults are among the least-reported crimes. And, although Uber tried to account for that in its figures, it's reasonable to believe other sexual assaults occurred during rides that went unreported.
After reading Uber's security report, its executive summary, and its press release on the matter, what I didn't quite find was a concrete answer to the problem. Yes, Uber should be commended for revealing data about its rides (and the company's statements on the matter certainly make it sound like it wants credit for being transparent), but, as the country's leader in ridesharing, it must do better.
For its part, Uber said it wants to do better, and that's a good thing. The company also said that it's launching a variety of new policy improvements to protect sexual assault victims, including improved emergency responses, sexual misconduct education for drivers, and a new partnership with the highly respected Raliance organization that aims at improving sexual violence awareness and prevention.
But we need to wait and see whether these efforts will be enough to curb what is a disturbing number of incidents in Uber rides. And I can't help but wonder why some of these initiatives hadn't already been implemented.
But we also can't let Uber get criticized here without acknowledging that the company is not alone. Uber is accurate in saying that sexual assaults and other terrible crimes occur in a variety of other transportation services. Even Uber's chief rival, Lyft, has been facing an increasing number of lawsuits over alleged sexual assaults by its drivers.
With more than 20 women filing lawsuits this week alone, Lyft now faces 55 lawsuits over alleged sexual assaults. And, at least so far, Lyft hasn't been as transparent as Uber about the extent of sexual assaults that have allegedly occurred on its platform over the years.
The fact is, this is as much an "Uber thing" as it is an "industry thing." And it's time these companies take aggressive actions to address these incidents and protect their users.