Is Uber’s ‘commitment to safety’ enough to counter assault allegations?

The transportation startup came under fire regarding the welfare of its users. This time, Executive statements and continued promises may not quell the company’s perception problems. 


It’s a new week, and that means another round of negative publicity for Uber.

On Saturday, South African pop star Nikki Williams tweeted this message to her 52,000 followers:

Uber spokeswoman Kaitlin Durkosh told Mashable, “Uber has zero tolerance for this behavior, and we apologize to Ms. Williams for this terrible experience. We immediately deactivated the driver, and have begun an investigation.”

But the incident brought to mind two recent rape allegations against Uber drivers in New Delhi and Boston. The accused rapist in the Boston case passed Uber’s background check and was an authorized Uber driver, according to statements from the company.

Durkosh issued the following statement in the wake of the Boston news:

This is a despicable crime and our thoughts and prayers are with the victim during her recovery. Uber has been working closely with law enforcement and will continue to do everything we can to assist their investigation.

Meanwhile, lawsuits in San Francisco and Los Angeles claim that the car sharing service has been making false statements about the background check it performs on prospective drivers.

Uber passengers have “a false sense of security when deciding whether to get into a stranger’s car,” according to San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon.

What is Uber doing to combat the public perception that its service is anything but safe? On the same day the Boston driver attacked his female passenger, the company’s head of global safety, Phillip Cardenas, published a blog post titled “Our Commitment to Safety.”

In it, Cardenas makes this unfortunately timed statement: “We believe deeply that, alongside our driver partners, we have built the safest transportation option in 260 cities around the world.”

It’s a bold claim for a company whose safety record is the subject of multiple lawsuits.

Cardenas also outlines the ways that Uber is addressing rider and driver safety through technology, service and support, background checks and advisory training partnerships.

Is it enough? Uber has plenty of devotees who use and love the service, singing its praises.

However, high-profile cases that raise legitimate questions about the company’s safety will require much more than a blog post and some haughty language.

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