Actually, the question should be, is Uber safe? It's not just a matter of women, it's a matter of trust, and for some reason, a lot of people are willing to let a total stranger drive them. Unlike a taxi, where the driver's profession is driving people, Uber is all about giving a total stranger that happens to own a car the right to charge strangers for driving them. Uber started out as a solution to ride-sharing based on employees driving from a similar location to the same workplace. This idea blossomed out into a complete take over from taxis. Basically, the app allowed Uber to replace taxis as a viable mode of transport.
Not all the drivers, in fact, 95% of them, are not professionally trained to drive. The few that are were once taxi drivers that made the transition from a dying industry to a growing one. In one case, in London, a young female passenger to a ride on an early Sunday morning at 2.50am, what should have been a 26-minute ride and cost around $12, turned out to be a vacation tour of London that cost her $40. All during the trip the young passenger kept silent, scared that she was being kidnapped. In the end, it was the driver's way of trying to make more money by ignoring the GPS route and robbing the client through misuse of the app.
There are many stories of drivers misusing their app, as well as the occasional violent or sexually harassing an individual. In reality, less than 1% of all Uber drivers are involved in crimes. However, it is this 1% that gives the 99% a bad name. For inference, Uber is finding it hard to penetrate the Israeli market; the main reason is not the taxi association's pressure to keep Uber out, it is the Ministry of Police and Internal Security that is worried that Palestinian Extremists and Hamas will use the Uber cover to kidnap Israeli citizens. This should be used as a torch for all the world to consider. When you let a car owner drive their private car for the money, are you bypassing all the basic regulations that a professional driver must take to become a taxi or limousine chauffeur? If so, why do they not add these requirements to Uber drivers?
Back to London, there are some interesting statistics emerging there, which could shed light on the Uber issue. Between February 2016 and February 2017, 48 sex crimes were allegedly reported to police involving Uber drivers. This is an average of 2 attacks per month. Scotland Yard, the British Police HQ did filter out false claims as well as claims against people that were not Uber drivers. However, the very fact that 48 such cases were attributed to Uber in London shows what the image of Uber and its drivers are facing every day. Take into account that during the same time period, no convictions and only single figure allegations were made against any London Black Cab drivers, and the figures start to scream for attention.
Uber drivers in London pass a similar background check as they do in any other country, the British screening is called a DBS, which stands for Disclosure and Barring Service. This service basically checks the individual's criminal background, as well as traffic violations. However, it is not as efficient as a full regulatory control for licensing individuals. Some Uber drivers can be extremely unprofessional without any malicious intent, but it is enough that their actions unsettle a passenger to give Uber a bad reputation. Such cases occur daily, and one such case was reported by Akena Katsuda, a 22-year-old Japanese student in London that told reporters of her Uber experience. Her driver told her, "It would be nice to marry a Japanese woman because they are sexually subservient" Katsuda explained that "I've never had conversations with people where it immediately became sexual so quickly." She was even more unsettled by the fact that the Uber driver would know where she lived.
Another case was with 22-year-old Ellie Dickinson, who was subjected to lewd and sexual remarks even though her brother was riding in the car with her. Or perhaps the case of Aliss Wagner, a 23-year old that had undergone a city-wide tour of London just to cover a short distance home., but that was not enough, as Wagner told the press, "He deliberately put his inside mirror down so that he could see me in it, and kept staring at me through it even while driving." Wagner was so scared that she even banged on her window when a passing car stopped by them at a traffic light, at the end, when she arrived at her destination, she just ran as fast as she could.
The problem that faces Uber in London is not only the bad publicity that they are getting from these few drivers. It is also from the Transport for London (TfL) that is siding with the London Black Cab as well as stating that Uber suffers from "a lack of corporate responsibility" in regard to public safety. This is based on the fact that crimes are not being reported by Uber to the authorities even when victims make police reports.
The issue in London, the case made by the TfL is convoluted. While cabs and taxis might not be safer than Uber, Uber is under scrutiny because it is not a standard taxi company. It is a high-tech firm that allows untrained drivers to negotiate the streets of London without proper training or regularity oversight. During the fiscal year of 2106, 32 convicted assaults were attributed to Uber drivers, while at the same time 122 assaults were attributed to taxi's, chauffeurs, and black cab drivers. Many passengers believe that Uber is safer than a taxi, the psychology behind this is unknown, and Uber has started to report all incidents to the authorities as and when they happen.
Some of the young women mentioned in this article reported that they do continue to use Uber even after their unsettling incidents, this goes to show that people are not deterred by one or two bad apples. There are solutions to providing more security, and these include mandatory dash cams that record both the passengers as well as the drivers during every ride. Another possible solution would be to create a more stringent application process, this might defeat the object of the exercise, where ridesharing is about matching a passenger with a car that is privately owned, but since Uber has evolved from a side street operation into a global taxi service that has replaced the conventional taxi services, perhaps it's time that Uber continued to evolve and accept the burden of responsibility.
The reason that Uber is trying to distance itself from this responsibility is due to the nature of their contract with their drivers. Drivers are independent contractors, and Uber states that It only pairs a passenger with a driver, as such, Uber is staying, "it's not our problem." Perhaps this is starting to change in London; it is definitely changing in the EU, where Uber is recognized as a taxi service, literally. London is as yet an unstable ground for Uber, where it gets bad coverage and is being treated hostilely if Uber succeeds in winning its place in London, it will have succeeded in winning its place globally.