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Uber admits 6,000 sexual assaults occurred during US rides in just two years

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Uber has published its first safety report, which focuses exclusively on the US market. The report reveals almost 6,000 reports of sexual assaults – including hundreds of rapes – and 19 deaths associated with physical assault.

The ride-sharing platform has attracted criticism on a range of issues, including the safeguarding of passengers and drivers, with widespread reports of rides ending with sexual assaults at the hands of a stranger. Now, Uber has published its own figures in its first safety report.

Uber said that it had received 5,981 reports of sexual assault in the US 2017 and 2018 (2,936 in 2017 and 3,045 in 2018). Of these assaults, there were 464 reports of rape; 587 reports of attempted rape; 1,164 reports of kissing of “non-sexual body parts”, and 766 reports of kissing of “sexual body parts”.

The real figures are likely to be much higher: fewer than a quarter of sexual assaults are thought to be reported to the police in the US, according to Department of Justice figures. Uber's report also does not include cases of sexual harassment.

According to the report, passengers were the perpetrators of sexual assault in nearly half of cases. The victims of rape on Uber journeys were 89 per cent women and 92 per cent riders. Only seven per cent were drivers.

While the number of reported sexual assaults rose in 2018, the rate of incidents dropped 16 per cent as the total number of journeys taken was higher.

According to Tony West, Uber’s Chief Legal Officer: “In the [US] alone, more than 45 rides on Uber happen every second. At that scale, we are not immune to society’s most serious safety challenges, including sexual assault.

"Confronting sexual violence requires honesty and it’s only by shining a light on these issues that we can begin to provide clarity on something that touches every corner of society. And, most importantly, by bringing hard data to bear, we can make every trip safer for drivers and riders alike.”

The report also revealed 19 cases of fatal physical assaults, including four victims who were neither drivers or riders (such as bystanders outside the vehicle).

Uber strongly emphasised the context of the figures: the report covers a period in which 2.3 billion Uber journeys were taken, of which Uber claimed 99.9 per cent were concluded safely.

Uber will continue to release a safety report for the US every two years. However, it told the BBC that it had no plans to release safety reports for the UK or other non-US markets.

Uber is facing legal complications in its largest UK market, London, after Transport for London rejected its request to renew its private hire operator license, describing the company as “not fit and proper” over patterns of failure affecting passenger safety.

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