Pando

This month in serious ridesharing allegations

By Nathaniel Mott , written on August 13, 2015

From The Sharing Economy Desk

It seems like every week an Uber driver is involved in some kind of shocking incident -- either as alleged perpetrator or victim.

For a while, we here at Pando tried to report on those incidents as they happened, but in recent months it’s become increasingly hard to keep up. Or rather, it’s become hard to keep up without publishing a dozen “Uber driver accused of…” stories a week. For $10 a month, you probably prefer a little variety.

But, as ridesharing continues to take over the world, it’s more important than ever to report on the very serious safety concerns around the industry. Concerns which are only mounting. This is, after all, an industry that has raised north of $6 billion of dollars in funding. You’d think things like reliable background checks weren’t out of reach.  

So I’m going to try something a little different. Each month, I’ll comb through the headlines and tips to find the biggest stories involving the people who drive for companies like Uber, Lyft, SideCar, and others. It's an unfortunate series to have to run, but one we need to make sure doesn’t get lost to the news cycle.

Because the stories are so important, we’ll unlock this feature permanently each month.

Uber drivers behaving badly

We'll start with Uber.

The most recent story involving an Uber driver revolves around the awaited trial of a Pennsylvania man named Abdellah Elkaddi, who on August 12 saw his request to have his bail reduced from $1 million denied. Elkaddi is accused of raping a 24-year-old woman who fell asleep in his vehicle - while he was on duty - the night of June 11.

Before that, a Dallas woman said her driver "took her home, followed her inside, struck her on the back of the head, and raped her" on July 25. The driver, Talal Ali Chammout, has been accused and convicted of numerous felonies that should have been spotted by a background check. The victim (whose name remains confidential) blames Uber for the rape.

Yet another Uber driver was accused of sexual assault on August 10. This time a South Carolina man named Patrick Aiello is said to have driven a woman out to the highway and demanded sexual "favors" in exchange for a ride home. When she refused, he "pulled over, took her phone, held her down and assaulted her before kicking her out of the car," according to an arrest affidavit first reported on by Reuters.

On August 7, two Uber drivers and one passenger were recorded fighting in the streets of London. The dispute is said to have started because one driver hit the other's side mirror by mistake. The video showing the fight has been removed by the person who posted it.

More shocking news came out of California on August 4, when the Los Angeles Times reported that four drivers ticketed at LAX have been convicted of "child exploitation, identity theft, manslaughter and driving under the influence," in the past. None of these men would be able to drive a taxi in Los Angeles - apparently Uber's fine with it, though.

A week earlier, on July 27, an Uber driver in Wisconsin allegedly refused a request from a blind man and his service dog. This could violate the Americans with Disabilities Act - with which Uber expects all its drivers to comply - NBC News reports. The man says he was trying to take his service dog, Divit, to the veterinarian's office.

The Associated Press reported on July 20 that a former Uber driver was awaiting trial for a rape which occurred in July 2006. He was first arrested for raping a passenger in 2014; after that arrest, he was linked to five prior assaults, none of which would have appeared on a background check because he hadn't yet been arrested for the crimes.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, an Uber driver in the Indian city of Kolkata was accused of masturbating while ferrying a 25-year-old woman. (A man in New Delhi driving for a competitive service, TaxiForSure, was accused of something similar weeks prior.) The driver had passed his background check and was able to make bail.

On July 14, the family of a six-year-old girl killed by an Uber driver in 2013 settled its lawsuit with the company. The incident was among the first to raise questions about how much liability Uber should assume when its drivers are involved in an accident while its app is open but they aren't ferrying passengers. Details about the settlement weren't disclosed. The driver awaits trial for vehicular manslaughter.

Finally, on July 8, BuzzFeed reported that an Uber driver in the United Kingdom threatened to cut a passenger's neck after she canceled a ride. The driver repeatedly warned the passenger not to "do that again" and called her an "idiot" for deciding to abandon the ride. The passenger told BuzzFeed she canceled to walk off an anxiety attack.

Bad things happening to Uber drivers

Now for some bad things that happened to Uber drivers. (A much shorter list.)

Most recently, Uber drivers in the Mexican city of Guadalajara were abducted and pistol-whipped by masked gunmen on August 5 and 6. The assailants asked their victims for the locations of other Uber drivers before "dumping them on the outskirts of the city and driving off in the stolen cars," Vice reported. The drivers have pressed charges.

A driver in Los Angeles was injured on August 5 in what the Los Angeles Times described as a "possible gang-related shooting." At least two of the driver's passengers were carrying weapons, and were booked on suspicion of weapons-related violations, the LA Times said. The driver was treated at a local hospital and then released.

Before that, an Uber driver in Austin was fired for shooting a gun at a passenger who assaulted him on July 20. The driver and his passengers, both of whom are said to have been drunk, were fighting over the destination and the route taken to reach it. Uber's said to have fired the driver for violating its firearm policies.

Bonus - Lyft incident

Lyft drivers appear to have been implicated in just one reported serious indicent between July 1 and now: failing to comply with an Orlando law that requires ride-hailing drivers to receive permits. The city's Local 6 News reports that just 15 citations have been issued to drivers working without that permit, which is required by a city ordinance introduced six months ago. The permits are said to cost $275, total, to obtain.

(Of course, Lyft drivers aren't the only ones working without permits. Uber drivers are also said to be operating without the paperwork. And here we both thought I was done listing Uber drivers' misdeeds.)

So...

There you have it! The last month (and two weeks, give or take) in ride-hailing mishaps. I'll close with a quote from the complaint filed on behalf of the Dallas woman accusing her driver of sexual assault:

Each time, Uber apologizes. Each time, Uber promises to take all necessary corrective measures to prevent future similar incidents. And, each time, Uber denies all legal responsibility for the incident. Furthermore, in the face of this parade of horribles, Uber persists in pursuing an agenda of actively opposing any and all regulatory and legislative efforts to mandate that it strengthen the background checks performed on Uber's drivers. This case is about holding Uber legally accountable for the foreseeable criminal acts of one of its drivers, and forcing Uber to institute basic, common-sense corrective measures to ensure that all of the drivers that it places in cars with its passengers many of whom are young women, truly pose no safety threat to those passengers.

More next month!