Is a Personal Driver Worth Your Personal Safety?

How the most lucrative startup has come under fire.

Uber was first created in 2009 and in these past seven years it has expanded to 66 countries and 507 cities worldwide. Since its inception, it has been barraged by lawsuits. Of course, not all these lawsuits come from passengers. They come from drivers filing against the company, some come from the government, and some from other companies like taxi services that have had their business drastically cut. But the lawsuits from passengers still come.

Illustrator: Weiying Zhu

Illustrator: Weiying Zhu

According to the Boston Globe, a woman was riding in an Uber with three of her friends in Boston in 2014. Her friends got dropped off and she stayed in the car to go to a different location. Once she was alone, her Uber driver sexually assaulted her until she was able to get out of the car and get help by calling 911. This driver was charged with both indecent assault and battery after this incident. The Consumerist also published a story this year about a woman in Chicago who is planning to file charges against Uber. She accused the driver of turning violent, dragging her out of the car and slamming the door on her leg repeatedly when she refused to get out of the car at an unsafe drop-off location.

Then there’s Minneapolis. On Sept. 14, 2016 the Twin Cities Pioneer Press published a story about a girl who was taken back to her Uber driver’s home in St. Paul instead of her own house for what the driver said was to be “quick sex.” She was able to get in contact with the police before it went any further. The driver is currently waiting for his first court date on Nov. 14. These are only three stories out of dozens. However, they all have something in common; a woman is alone and is forced to fear for her safety when using this service.

Whenever an incident report is filed, Uber always responds by taking the driver out of its system instantly. However, when you get in a car, you are placing your life and safety in your driver’s hands. Although it’s great to know that if something happens they will suffer the repercussions, would it not be better to know that nothing is going to happen? According to Uber’s website, a prospective driver has to accommodate three rules to start driving for them: be 21 years of age or older, have a vehicle model 2001 or newer and pass a background check. It’s that easy.

People use Uber to not use a taxi and yet Uber drivers go through less of a process than taxi drivers. The DMV lays out what is required of a taxi driver on their website and in addition to meeting an age requirement, passing a background check, and proving that they are a legal US citizen, a new taxi driver must also pass a chauffeur’s licensing exam, pay an upfront fee (for licensing or to the company), and must complete on-the-job training. Uber’s easy acceptance of new drivers may be attractive to possible employees, but having a more rigorous registration process as a new driver may help to increase its safety.

A new startup called “SafeHer” aims to address the problem. It is a driving service starting in Boston this fall and will soon expand to more cities nationwide. It employs female drivers and only accepts women and children as passengers. It is impossible to ignore that this new company speaks volumes about the current safety of other driving services.

There’s no easy answer for Uber. They offer a fantastic service, however in order to protect themselves and their customers, it seems as though a new step has to be taken.