On Thursday, Uber and Lyft announced the creation of a safety program in order to share information within the ride-share industry about drivers who were deactivated for serious offenses including physical or sexual assault. For several years now the popular ride-sharing services have dealt with accusations of mishandling reports of sexual assault and putting riders at risk—especially after Uber released a safety report in 2019 that revealed the company had received 5,981 reports of sexual assault just during 2017 and 2018. This came a mere day after nineteen women came together to sue Lyft over its handling of their sexual assault complaints and for failing to enact safety measures to protect riders.
Although Uber and Lyft drivers go through annual background checks, there’s no guarantee that a past incident of assault would be reported—or even if it was, that it would result in an arrest or conviction that might show up on a background check. By sharing information on drivers, Uber and Lyft hope their program will prevent drivers with patterns of abusive behavior from evading a ban on one ride-sharing app by signing up as a driver on another. The program, which will be managed through a third-party agency called HireRight, will also be open to other transportation and delivery companies for a fee if they meet certain requirements, including those on classifying incident reports.
Despite the growing pressure to implement features to protect riders, prior to this announcement Uber and Lyft had primarily attempted to address the issue of assault using technological updates, such as including “panic buttons” within the app that allow users to instantly dial 911. Although Uber’s 2019 safety report revealed that drivers on the app reported being victims of assault at approximately the same rate as riders, the apps do not currently have any plans to share information about abusive riders.