Mobile technology has gone against everything we learned as children: Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t get in strangers’ cars. Don’t eat food from strangers. Social media; Uber, Lyft and Via; and every grocery delivery company from Instacart to Grubhub have made even our own parents into hypocrites. Does that mean we’re wrong? No, we’re just living in a different time and cultural climate.
Technology has united smartphone users in a way that prior generations weren’t equipped to see (or only imagined from the 1960s show “The Jetsons”). In a digitally dominant world, there has to be an added layer of trust in order to do almost anything online (including just browsing websites without third parties lurking). Allowing strangers inside to pack our refrigerators, buy our groceries and enter unattended homes to walk our dogs are all fairly common courtesy of popular mobile apps.
However, as with any business, trust is mandatory to keep that consumer-business relationship intact. And this is where ride-sharing app lines may blur. Uber and Lyft check the cars of drivers (identified as independent contractors everywhere but Britain) by make, model and year; confirm these vehicles have working seatbelts; and test safety mechanisms to make sure they are all in working condition. Luxury vehicles get an added check to verify that they meet the minimum qualifications for upgraded pricing. But what about safety outside of car parts?
These ride-sharing companies have been under increased pressure to better filter and remove drivers from their apps when something goes awry. Although some drivers would argue that ride-sharing companies have tightened their background check policies, as with any other employee or contractor, sometimes they may not know who they’ve hired until after they’ve been hired.
More than a decade later (Uber was founded in 2009 and Lyft in 2012), Uber and Lyft are finally taking steps to be as meticulous about the drivers as they are the cars. Why? To reduce driver-hopping after independent contractors may have been removed from the programs for serious offenses.
CNN reports that on Thursday, March 18, both ride-sharing companies have agreed to release information related to their drivers and delivery people who had their driving platforms deactivated due to the “most serious safety incidents.” This includes sexual assault (nonconsensual kissing and rape), physical assaults and fatalities.
Consumer-reporting company HireRight will manage releasing this information backdated to 2017. Other transportation and delivery network companies can also include themselves for a separate fee.
“A recent US Department of Justice study found only 25% of sexual assaults or
rape were reported to police,” Karen Baker, Chief Executive Officer of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, stated in a 2017-2018 report. “Technology can make it easier for people to come forward, and it has the potential to increase accountability.”
“In the United States alone, more than 45 rides on Uber happen every second,” Tony West, Chief Legal Officer for Uber, stated in the same report. “At that scale, we are not immune to society’s most serious safety challenges, including sexual assault. Yet when collecting data for that portion of our report, we found there was no uniform industry standard for counting and categorizing those types of incidents.”
The ride-sharing company then made steps around 2016 to create a uniform policy with help from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. On March 18, this collection of data will only be released regarding drivers, not passengers.