Ride-hailing services have revolutionized transportation in California cities and across the United States. People use them for commuting to work in the morning or getting a safe ride home after an evening at the bar. However, some have raised concerns about the safety records of these companies and their drivers.
Uber, one of the largest and most popular, hired a new CEO in 2018. The following year, the company released a safety report to the public. Its express purpose was to reinforce the promises of a new level of transparency in the company. Unfortunately, independent investigation indicates that the report may be woefully incomplete. Not only that, but Uber may be purposely hiding information about many more accidents that involved their drivers and vehicles.
Uber alleges that, out of 2.3 billion rides that the company provided in 2017 and 2018, only 0.0003% involved particularly untoward incidents with the potential to adversely affect customers. Most of these, the report goes on to say, concluded without any safety issue. The implication is that fatal accidents and physical assaults against passengers by drivers make up isolated incidents, and that riding with Uber is safe most of the time.
However, the report is selective about the incidents it includes: fatal vehicular accidents, fatal physical assaults and sexual assaults. The report makes no mention of accidents that resulted in nonfatal injuries. It also excludes at least 22 fatal accidents on the grounds that the company could not locate them in a federal database of traffic deaths called the Fatality Analysis Review System.
The California Public Utilities Commission is responsible for regulating Uber and other ride-hailing companies statewide. However, although the commission requires ride-hailing companies to submit annual safety reports, it also has a rule in effect that prevents it from releasing this information to the public. The rule went into effect seven years ago after intense lobbying by Uber and its primary competitor Lyft, which argued that confidentiality was necessary to protect their respective trade secrets.
Restrictions such as these by the CPUC make it nearly impossible to find accurate information regarding the prevalence of nonfatal Uber accidents.