At a time when women’s safety is once again a hot topic of discussion amid violent rapes across India, Uber has released a new report which says it received 2,936 sexual assault complaints in 2017 and 3,045 in 2018 from riders in the United States. According to the Uber’s US Safety report, nine people were murdered and 58 killed in crashes.
The safety report is restricted to rides in the US alone. But it has once again raised questions about the safety of women passengers in the ride-hailing scheme of things. Across India, opinions are divided today (December 6, 2019 ) over the alleged police encounter in Hyderabad which claimed the lives of four accused in a rape and murder case. In such a powder keg, the report from Uber just highlights how citizen safety is just as big a concern in more developed economies.
This only highlights the need for safety mechanisms in every corner, especially last-mile commute and cab rides. When contacted by Inc42, Uber India did not comment on the US report. It must be noted that no such safety report has been released for India which highlights the incidents of sexual assaults or other violence in its cabs.
However, with a large number of women using the cab service and a pitifully large number of sexual abuse cases in India, a report on how safe women are while taking a cab, from Uber, Ola and likes would help cab-hailing startups and law enforcement authorities act better. Uber India told us that it has instituted a number of measures to improve rider safety. Ironically, these same measures are also available in the US, where the company might have had to release a report such as this due to it going public.
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Ride-Hailing Not That Safe
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2013 annual report, 24,923 rape cases were reported across India in 2012. While the report is old and unfortunately the sexual abuse cases getting more rampant, many other reports give a clearer picture. For instance, Thomson Reuters Foundation 2018 survey says India is the most dangerous country for sexual violence against women.
Uber and Ola have had to deal with sexual assault complaints in India too. Over the last few years, multiple cases of harassment by cab drivers have come to light. In July, an Ola cab driver in Bengaluru allegedly murdered a young woman while driving her to the airport.
In December 2018, Gurugram police arrested four Uber drivers who were allegedly accused of robbing as many as 15 passengers on the Delhi-Gurugram Expressway within a span of three months. In February, an FIR was registered against Uber by the Noida police due to negligence on the company’s part for not having a real-time monitoring system and proper police verification of its drivers.
The US Safety Report collected data from 2017 and 2018 from Uber’s ride-sharing platform. During the time period, an average of more than 3.1 Mn trips took place each day in the US. “In order to improve something, you have to measure it. Yet data on serious safety issues, especially sexual violence, is sparse and inconsistent. By sharing hard data, we can hold ourselves accountable and share best practices with other companies for the benefit of everyone,” reads the report.
In India, this comes at a time recent media reports said that the number of daily rides for Ola, Uber has increased by a mere 4%, from 3.5 Mn to 3.65 Mn from January 2019 to June 2019. Reportedly, major cuts in driver incentives in the last few years has led to supply shortage of cab drivers and has contributed to this fall in growth.