Uber Safety Feature Improvements Announced Amid Growing Number of Driver Sexual Assault Lawsuits

Despite allegations raised in Uber sexual assault lawsuits filed by hundreds of individuals, the new safety features still do not allow riders to select the gender of their driver, and do not require cameras in Uber vehicles.

Facing a growing number of driver sexual assault lawsuits, Uber has announced a number of new safety features, which are intended to protect passengers. However, critics are already raising concerns that the company is not implementing several available improvements that could reduce the risk that riders are raped, assaulted or harrased by Uber drivers.

The new Uber safety features were announced by the rideshare service in an April 10 press release. The new features particularly target young female passengers with options meant to help keep them safe from dangerous drivers.

More than 200 lawsuits have already been filed against the rideshare service by passengers, mostly women, who say they were harassed, groped, or even abducted and raped by Uber drivers. However, it is ultimately expected that several thousand Uber driver assault lawsuits will be pursued in the coming years.

Although Uber implemented “Safe Ride Fees” in 2014, plaintiffs maintain that the company never used that money to actually make its passengers safer, providing only cursory background checks for drivers. The company also failed to provide surveillance cameras inside of cars, did not allow passengers to make requests regarding the gender of drivers, and failed to train drivers on issues of sexual assault and harassment, according to the lawsuits.

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Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuits

A lack of passenger safety features and cursory background checks for drivers have resulted in an alarming number of rapes and sexual assaults by Uber drivers. Lawyers provide free consultations and claim evaluations.

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According to Uber, a number of new safety features have now been launched in the Uber app, including a RideCheck option, which can detect if a ride goes off-course, stops unexpectedly or ends early, allowing passengers to receive check-ins to make sure the ride is going okay.

Another new feature includes PIN verification, allowing passengers to receive a four-digit PIN number that helps them verify that the driver who is picking them up is the same as the one they ordered on the app. Uber has also added an audio recording option to allow passengers to record the trip and save it to an encrypted file, which Uber says is only accessible by the rideshare service if the passenger files a safety report.

The fourth feature is a Share My Trip option which allows them to share their live location and trip details with a family member or friend.

Despite the addition of these long-overdue Uber safety features, the announcement has been met with criticism that the ride share app still has not gone far enough to implement all available options to protect passengers. Uber sexual assault lawsuits typically involve allegations that attacks could have been prevented if vulnerable female passengers had the option to select the gender of their driver, and if the rideshare service required Uber drivers to maintain cameras in vehicles. Neither of features were included in this update.

Uber Sexual Assault Lawsuits

Amid the rise in popularity of rideshare services, Uber has faced claims that it prioritized profits and growth over passenger safety, but ignoring reports of drivers sexually assaulting passengers, many of whom the company targeted with advertisements encouraging young women to rely on the service after nights out drinking.

Although Uber has argued that it is not responsible for the criminal acts committed by individual drivers connected with passengers through the platform, plaintiffs point to the overwhelming volume of complaints involving rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment that went unaddressed for years, while the company continued to expose vulnerable passengers to sexual predators.

In response to independent investigations, the company released a report in December 2019, which outlined Uber driver sexual assault allegations raised by more than 6,000 riders between 2017 and 2018, including hundreds of rape cases. A second Uber report was released in July 2022, identifying another 3,824 incidents of sexual misconduct, assault and rape between 2019 and 2020.

Given common questions of fact and law raised in complaints filed in various different federal courts, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated all Uber driver sexual assault lawsuits in October 2023, centralizing the litigation before U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer in the Northern District of California, as part of an MDL or multidistrict litigation.

As part of the coordinated pretrial proceedings, Judge Breyer is presiding over the exchange of discovery into common issues that impact all claims, and is expected to select a small group of claims that will be prepared for a series of early trial dates, which may drive future Uber driver assault settlement negotiations to resolve the litigation.

While the outcome of any bellwether trials in the MDL will not be binding on other claims, average Uber sexual assault lawsuit payouts awarded by juries may influence later settlement agreements. If no Uber sexual assault lawsuit settlement is reached, each individual claim may be remanded back to the U.S. District Court where it was originally filed for a future trial date.

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