In a move that swiftly and decisively bit them in the ass, ride-sharing company Uber has released a "safety checklist" for their riders, which may as well be titled "Not Getting Raped By Our Drivers is Your Responsibility, Ladies." Available for now only in Boston and Chicago, it's almost staggeringly half-assed. Here's what riders see:
Uber's had a wave of very bad publicity after a string of sexual assault allegations, including four by Boston-area women in one month. They recently introduced stricter safety guidelines for in India after a several rape allegations there, including better background checks and hiring "local safety experts" to help them spot fraudulent applications, all great things to do before you start doing business and certainly before anyone gets assaulted.
- Know your driver. Even before pickup, you are given your driver's name, photo, car type, and license plate number, so that you have your driver's identifying information in advance.
- Confirm that you're getting in the right car with the the right person. Before you get in the car, double check that the license plate and car make/model match the description in your app. You can also observe whether the driver matches the photo in the app, and ask the driver to confirm his or her name.
- Need to contact your driver? You are able to call or text your driver through the app using an anonymized phone number. That way, you can talk to the driver without ever sharing any personal information.
- Share your journey in real time with friends or loved ones using our Share My ETA feature. This sends a link to a map showing the route you take on your ride.
- Provide feedback. We take post-ride feedback seriously and use it when evaluating our partner driver relationships.
- Want more details? Every Uber receipt includes your driver's name and photo, as well as your exact route and pricing. Your receipt is your detailed guide to your Uber trip.
Certainly no one can argue with "make sure you're getting in the right car." But the issue has never been that women are getting in the car with someone pretending to be an Uber driver. In virtually every incident we've heard about, the women are getting into cars with actual Uber drivers, who then assault them. (Sometimes the issue there is the company's seemingly poor background checks — one of the Uber drivers accused of rape in Chicago was driving using an account registered in his wife's name.)
Uber has created a weak "solution" here to a straw-man problem. As Vocativ's Abigail Tracy points out, how about creating a way to alert Uber when a driver is being threatening or inappropriate? Or how about displaying some awareness that it's Uber's job to vet and hire appropriately, not a customer's job to escape from a ride un-raped? "We are being responsive," Chris Taylor, the general manager of Uber in Chicago, told CBS on Wednesday, "Given there have been some accusations . . . we want to make sure everyone knows how to use the platform in the safest way possible." Because if you get assaulted, see, you're clearly just doing Uber wrong.