Pando

Your monthly helping of serious ridesharing allegations

By Nathaniel Mott , written on December 16, 2015

From The Sharing Economy Desk

Welcome to the December installment in Pando’s monthly look at how drivers for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft have clashed with passengers, cabbies, and law enforcement.

For a while, and not through choice, this series only featured Uber drivers. That changed last month when reports surfaced of a Lyft driver allegedly following a woman into her home and demanding that she have sex with him in return for waiving the cleanup fee associated with her vomiting in his vehicle. Lyft suddenly found itself sharing the spotlight – and it continues to do so this month.

Uber and Lyft drivers on Santa’s naughty list

We’ll start with Uber drivers’ continued refusal to give rides to blind passengers. Motherboard reported that one woman, Sassy Outwater, has had Uber drivers cancel her rides more than 20 times over the last two years because her service dog would have to get in the car with her. She was often charged the $10 cancellation fee – which Uber refunded at least once – for the canceled rides. This is the subject of a pending lawsuit and against Uber’s code of conduct.

The next episode could’ve gone into the category of Uber drivers as victims. A cabbie in Toronto was dragged 20 meters – that’s 65 feet for us Americans – by an Uber driver on December 9 after he attempted to open the driver’s door and pounded on the driver’s-side window. The driver took off and the cabbie, not one to let an argument go, held on a while before falling off the vehicle.

An Uber driver was scheduled to face trial for the June 27 assault on a female passenger in Perth, a city in Western Australia. The trial is scheduled for February 25, 2016.

Another Uber driver was suspended after he took two passengers into a part of New York’s Lincoln Tunnel that was closed for maintenance. Port Authority police arrested the driver, Forhad Hussain, who is said to have passed a field sobriety test. The passengers were refunded for the cost of the ride and Hussain received summons for reckless driving, disobeying a traffic control device, and refusing to comply with police. It’s not clear what motivated the wayward ride.

On December 4, an Uber driver in Australia was convicted for operating a commercial vehicle without a license. The convicted was one of 13 people caught driving for UberX, which hasn’t yet received regulatory approval in the state of Victoria, in a sting operation from 2014. Uber told Reuters it would continue to support the driver, Nathan Brenner, while he appeals the ruling.

A few days earlier, a woman named Taleka White accused an Uber driver of dragging her from his minicab, calling her a “black bitch” and a “black cunt,” and punching her twice in the face. The assault –which was preceded by the driver calling her ethnic slurs while driving to the destination – was allegedly motivated by White complaining that the driver missed the turn to her street. The driver is said to have been removed from Uber’s platform after the assault.

Before that, on November 23, actor Frances Barber tweeted about an Uber driver who allegedly said she was “disgustingly dressed.” Barber also claimed the man was a “sharia Uber driver” and that he told her “as a woman I shouldn’t be alone at night.” Uber told the Guardian that it “immediately reached out to the rider" to offer its support and would “take appropriate action” against the driver accused of making the comments. His identity was not released.

On November 20, a Denver district attorney charged an Uber driver with two counts of sexual assault. The driver, Luis Galeano-Bedon, allegedly assaulted one woman who fell asleep in his vehicle and woke to him “penetrating her vaginally with his fingers.” He then tried to follow the woman and her friend into their hotel room; he left when one of them started recording him. Uber tried to distance itself from the incident by saying that if the ride was organized outside of Uber – Galeano-Bedon reportedly gave the women his cell number – it isn’t an Uber trip. (OK.)

A day earlier, an Uber driver in Chicago, Marvin White, pleaded guilty to reckless discharge of a firearm after he fired on a passenger who threw a rock at his vehicle. White was sentenced to two years of probation, gave up his concealed carry permit, and was ordered to turn over all his firearms; the passenger, Alan Slawson, was sentenced to a year in prison after he pled guilty to felony criminal damage to property. White was reportedly “deactivated” after the incident.

We’ll end with the Lyft driver. On November 16, the Dallas Morning News reported that police arrested Loai Faheem Laila was accused of sexually assaulting a woman on November 7. The woman said he “began to inappropriately touch the woman” before pulling into a side street “where he raped her in the back of the Tahoe.” Lyft said Laila was removed from its platform.

Drivers as victims

Next we’ll turn to the Uber driver in Boston who was attacked by a passenger on December 11. The driver told an unruly passenger named “Andrew” that he wouldn’t be able to give him a ride and asked him to leave the vehicle. Andrew tried to stop a passenger from leaving the vehicle, attacked the driver, and then kicked the driver’s minivan after he finally left the vehicle. Everything was caught on tape and the rider has reportedly been banned from Uber’s service.

Before that, two Uber drivers were attacked and carjacked. The first assault occurred on December 7, when a driver in Baltimore had his car stolen after he was robbed at gunpoint. Two men were suspects in the attack; one was arrested after police saw him driving the car 15 minutes later. Two days later, a 28-year-old man punched a driver, stole his car, and tried to hide in the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina hotel after he crashed into a vehicle in its parking lot. He then tried to force his way into a room on the 25th floor and was later arrested.

Also on December 7, an Uber driver’s vehicle was shot after he dropped off a passenger. It’s not clear whether the passenger was involved in the shooting – the Associated Press reported that Atlanta police were seeking a man who wounded two others near the Uber riders’ destination. The driver wasn’t injured, but his vehicle was reportedly hit by a stray bullet during the incident.

Almost a week prior, an Uber driver was beaten by taxi drivers during the annual Rage Festival in Durban, South Africa. The taxi drivers were hired by the event’s organizers and, fittingly, tasked with providing “Rage Rides” to the annual festival’s attendees. Organizers distanced themselves from the issue, saying it was “caught in an on-going rivalry” between Uber and taxis.

On November 27, a Land Transport Authority officer  in Singapore was recorded during a “scuffle” with an Uber driver. The LTA apologized for the officer’s actions, told reporters the officer would be fired pending the police investigation into the matter, and said it was helping the driver with medical bills. (It’s not clear from the report why the assault occurred; the video has been taken down.)

Finally, an Uber driver in North Carolina was reportedly attacked on November 15 because a passenger thought he was a Muslim. (He isn’t – the driver is Christian.) The driver, Samson Woldemichael, told the Huffington Post that the man " told me he was going to shoot me right in face or strangle me” while he “used a lot of bad words... really dirty words, and said I was a Muslim.” Uber said it was assisting the local police force with its investigation into the incident.

Uber drivers being… nice?

This category isn’t usually included in these roundups – many more places focus on what Uber and Lyft drivers do right than on what they do wrong – but it’s the holiday season, so fuck it, let’s call attention to a couple times when Uber drivers were total mensches. You know, for Jesus.

The most recent example comes from India, where an Uber driver helped a woman give birth to her son in his vehicle. The driver was summoned when ambulances failed to pick the woman up – he was then tasked with turning his cab into a makeshift delivery room, assisting with that delivery, and then driving the woman to the local hospital so she could receive assistance. The only problem with this heartwarming tale? The driver was then asked to name the son, and of all the names he could’ve chosen, he’s reportedly decided to go with “Uber.” That poor child.

Before that, an Uber driver called 911 after dropping off three suspects in the shooting of an Atlanta-area hotel. The driver took the men to a home outside the city; after he called police, they raided the home and immediately arrested one of the suspects. Two fled but were caught. The men allegedly robbed four men at the hotel, stole their car, and left it at a Waffle House.

Ah. The most wonderful time of the year.