Pando

This month in serious ridesharing allegations

By Nathaniel Mott , written on September 15, 2015

From The Sharing Economy Desk

Uber’s been busy.

In the last month the company has raised $1.2 billion to expand its efforts in China, been the subject of a Fast Company feature story that claimed everyone loves it, and watched its chief executive get interrupted by a protester during an interview for the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. That’s what happened to Uber. But what’s happened to its drivers?

You might remember that this post is part of a Pando series on misdeeds from people who drive for ridesharing companies, whether it’s Uber or Lyft or one of their less-popular competitors. I focused on Uber in the first paragraph because, once again, I was unable to find any stories about Lyft drivers assaulting passengers, breaking laws, or otherwise being controversial. So here, for the second month in a row, I round up all the bad behavior perpetrated, and suffered, by drivers for... well... Uber. 

Uber drivers hitting, discriminating against, and running over their passengers

District attorneys from San Francisco and Los Angeles said in August that Uber’s background checks missed “registered sex offenders, identity thieves, burglars, a kidnapper and a convicted murderer” Bloomberg reports. The district attorneys have updated a lawsuit which claims that Uber’s safety claims misled the public about who exactly would be driving them around town.

You might remember Talal Ali Chammout from last month’s roundup, which included a report about how the convicted felon has been accused of driving a woman home, striking her in the back of the head, and raping her. Well, he violated his bond by testing positive for alcohol after he took a mandatory drug test just five days after he was released.

Later, an Uber driver in Kolkata was arrested for “misbehaving” with a female passenger. The driver was accused of making lewd comments; “no body touch or physical molestation” was involved, according to comments made by the arresting officer. That’s a far cry from earlier incidents during which drivers were accused of masturbating in front of female passengers.

An Uber driver is accused of robbing, assaulting, and molesting a woman from the Sichuan province of China. He is said to have attacked the woman at knifepoint and taken pictures after the assault to blackmail her into not discussing the crime with police. While the incident was said to have occurred “weeks ago” when it was first reported, it only came to light in late August.

Perhaps the most famous incident from the last month was the assault of an Australian woman who was dragged out of an Uber driver’s car and run over while she was on a work phone call. She is said to have suffered from some bruises, a large abrasion, and potentially other injuries. Uber told the Daily Mail that the driver in question has been suspended from its service.

Then there were some incidents that don’t technically fit here, but seem appropriate: a Tallahassee man, a Texas man, and a Boston man independently posing as Uber drivers near college campuses and convincing women to get into their cars. The man from Tallahassee was arrested and charged with attempted abduction; Texas police are said to have a suspect in their case, while the incident in Boston doesn’t seem to have led to a formal investigation.

Finally, an Uber driver is said to have kicked two gay men out of his car after they kissed. The driver, who was suspended while Uber investigates the incident, reportedly yelled “Man should not kiss man” before kicking the passengers out of his vehicle.

Bad things happen to Uber drivers, too

Now let’s look at how Uber drivers have been harmed by passengers, taxi drivers, and others.

The first incident involved a woman who claimed to be offended that UBER (her stylization, not mine) would “allow” a Muslim woman to wear a headscarf while driving for the company. She then went on to say that she would immediately cancel a ride if she saw that driver because -- get this -- the driver’s husband “could very well be the enemy within.” She then said she will “defiantly take action” if anyone shared her complaint with the outside world. It went viral.

Then a driver in Los Angeles was robbed at gunpoint. The driver, an Ontario woman, was reportedly waiting to pick up her passengers at a strip mall when a man approached her and demanded an unknown amount of money. Another man assisted by driving a getaway car.

This next incident is a little strange. A taxi driver in Ottawa took a video of himself warning two women that riding in an Uber is illegal in the country -- a partial truth; apparently Uber drivers will be fined in the city, but passengers will not be charged with anything -- and convinced them to go to the licensed taxi stand. On the one hand, that sucks for the Uber driver. On the other hand, based on everything written above, it’s hard not to feel like the women dodged a bullet.

Then an Uber driver in Arlington told police that the driver of another vehicle shot at his SUV with a BB gun. No-one was injured during the incident, and it appears to have been caused by the Uber driver’s passengers, who are said to have provoked the other vehicle. The people in the other vehicle are said to have returned later to shoot more BBs or pellets at the driver.

Meanwhile, in Colombia, taxi drivers have started “holding up and verbally assaulting” both Uber drivers and their passengers. Eight taxis drivers are said to have stopped one Uber driver with their vehicles, surrounded him and a passenger, and terrorized both for over an hour. At least 19 similar incidents reportedly occurred in the week prior to that one.

And then, finally, we head back to Ottawa, where a taxi driver was recorded threatening an Uber driver. “If I see you again,” the cabbie told the Uber driver, “You’re dead meat.” Police are said to be investigating the incident, but only because the video was made available online -- apparently, despite both men’s threats to call the police on the other, no one reported the issue.

In closing…

LAist’s “Lexus Jones” explains why he would never sleep with someone he met while driving:

Why would I ever want to be linked to something like that? All I want to do is drive around, have a good time and pay off my Lexus with my earnings. You might be totally sexy, we may have bonded, but no, I am not going into your home at 3 a.m. to spoon because the cute guy at the bar didn't have the courage to come over to your table. Newsflash: it's not that difficult to get laid in Los Angeles in this era of Tinder.

[...]

If you haven't noticed, the press loves to have "Uber driver..." in their headlines, and even though it happens every night, all over the U.S., anyone having sex with people they just met who have been out drinking is a bad idea—and possibly illegal.


I wouldn’t say the press loves to have “Uber driver…” in its headlines. Hell, I for one would be happy if I couldn’t invoice Pando for another post in this series because no Uber driver, Lyft driver, or other ridesharing employee raped, assaulted, or otherwise harmed a passenger for a month. How about we try not to blame “the press” for calling a spade a spade, huh Lexus?