At least 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the last four years, according to a CNN investigation of police reports, federal court records, and county court databases for 20 major US cities. All the drivers involved have been named in civil suits, arrested, or are currently wanted by police. At least 31 drivers have been convicted of crimes including forcible touching, rape, and false imprisonment. Meanwhile, more criminal and civil cases are currently pending.
In one case, 54-year-old driver John David Sanchez was found guilty of raping a San Diego passenger after she got into his cab after a night out. When she regained consciousness after falling asleep in Sanchez’s backseat, he was raping her. Sanchez was sentenced to 80 years in prison after being convicted of the sexual assault or rape of at least nine other women and children, alongside 33 other counts.
In another case unearthed by CNN, a Miami woman passed out in an Uber and alleges that the driver carried her into her apartment, sexually assaulted her, and left her underwear on the floor. She’s a plaintiff in a proposed class action lawsuit against the tech giant. “You are pretty much hitchhiking with strangers," she told CNN. "How many people is it going to take to get assaulted before something is done?"
Uber has long endured criticism of its safety record. In July 2016, Brooklyn resident Bridget Bechtel went public about her experience of being harassed by a driver. Bechtel was critical of the firm’s response. “I really think if I hadn't gone to Twitter or made a fuss about it, I wouldn't have been noticed,” she told Broadly at the time.
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In London, 32 allegations of rape or sexual assault were made against Uber drivers during a one-year period, according to data obtained under Freedom of Information laws by British newspaper the Sun.
At the time, Uber defended its safety record in the UK. "We take any allegations of this nature very seriously," a spokesperson told Broadly. “We work closely with the police on their inquiries and prevent drivers from using the app while investigations take place. Our GPS technology also means that every trip—more than one million in London each week—is electronically recorded."
Uber markets itself as a safe option for women seeking to get home after nights out. It has partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to encourage individuals to use Uber after drinking alcohol.
Speaking to Broadly in June 2016, sharing economy expert Tom Slee highlighted that one obvious safety precaution—installing cameras in Ubers—hasn’t been made mandatory by the firm. “They're resisting the move because it would be a cost barrier to new drivers,” Slee explained. “It’s a pretty clear example of women's safety being of secondary importance for the company."
In response to its investigation, an Uber spokesperson told CNN: "Sexual assault is a horrible crime that has no place anywhere. While Uber is not immune to this societal issue, we want to be part of the solution to end this violence forever." New measures being rolled out will include buttons within the app to allow users to call emergency services, and a safety center that will share locations and trip details with designated contacts.
At the time this story was published, Uber did not respond to a request for comment.