Your monthly helping of serious ridesharing allegations: October
Uber might have found a treatment for its passenger safety problem: Selfies.
The company announced on September 23 that it will now require its drivers to take selfies before they accept rides. This will ostensibly allow Uber to make sure that the person who will be picking up passengers is indeed the person on whom they ran a background check. The idea is sound — people have in the past used another Uber driver’s account to avoid scrutiny — but it won’t be a panacea. Criminals will pass their background checks, someone could eventually snap more than a selfie, and violence is likely to plague the ride-hailing platform in perpetuity. Still, at least the company is responding to the many terrible things happening to some of its customers.
More on that below.
Drivers behaving badly
We begin with news that the San Antonio Police Department confirmed on September 30 that it is investigating a sexual assault that might involve an Uber driver. Details about the incident — such as when it occurred, or whether or not police have identified a suspect — remain scarce.
A Lyft driver named Peter Solomon who was arrested on September 29. Solomon was accused of picking up a woman from outside an Orlando bar, driving her to his home, and raping her on July 1. Police are said to have waited for over a month for Lyft to provide access to the victim’s account information so they could figure out who abducted and sexually assaulted the woman.
A cab driver named Gaurav Saha was arrested on September 24 for allegations of sexual assault. Saha is said to have attacked a woman to whom he was previously engaged outside of his cab. He was charged with “assault or use of criminal force with intent to outrage a woman’s modesty.” Uber said that Saha was not active on its platform when the incident was said to have occurred.
Uber and Lyft driver Jeremy Vague was arrested in Escondido, California on September 21 after he was accused of sexually assaulting multiple women. Vague is said to have attacked women who hailed him via Uber and Lyft’s apps. He also tried to lure another woman into his vehicle, and was also accused of having “inappropriate contact” with a girl when he was a volleyball coach.
On September 20, an Uber driver in Sydney was arrested after he was accused of raping a female passenger. Uber said it removed the driver from its platform when the incident was reported. The driver was also refused bail and charged with sexual assault and indecent assault.
News broke in September of a dispute between an Uber driver, Tristian Storms, and his passenger that occurred in July. Storms was accused of passing the woman’s destination, demanding she leave his vehicle, and then physically assaulting the woman, who took a video of the incident. Storms broke her phone by throwing it across the street; it had already been saved to iCloud, though, so the victim was still able to share the video of her assault with police.
Uber driver Dahir Aden was charged with false imprisonment on September 14. Aden was accused of taking a 14-year-old Minnesota girl to his house to “go inside and have quick sex” after picking her up in Minneapolis on August 4. The girl texted a friend who sent law enforcement to the man’s home in West Saint Paul, where he claimed she was his girlfriend before eventually telling police the truth. Uber removed Aden from its platform in August.
Another woman recorded a dispute with an Uber driver that occurred on September 13. The driver is accused of texting while he was driving. When the woman confronted him, the two argued until he eventually “charged at her, punched her and knocked off her prescription sunglasses.” The passenger is seeking damages from Uber; her video has since been deleted.
Finally, a scam is being run by Uber drivers in China who want to make a quick buck: They’re taking creepy profile pictures in an attempt to scare passengers into canceling their ride. This gives the drivers a few yuan. Drivers are also accused of accepting a ride, starting it before the passenger has been picked up, then ending it a few minutes later to get paid another few yuan.
Attacks on drivers
An Uber driver in Mexico said on September 23 that a group of cab drivers made a fake ride request in the middle of the night, dragged him out of his vehicle, and attacked him. They are also said to have set his car on fire. Many Uber drivers in Merida, Mexico are said to have responded to the attacks by blocking the streets to gain the attention of the regional parliament.
Also on September 23, Robert Croucher was sentenced to 20 weeks in prison for attacking an Uber driver in London. Croucher, who was reportedly drunk at the time, asked the Uber driver for a ride home from a club called Raffles. When the driver refused, Croucher took his keys, pulled him from the vehicle, and kicked him in the head multiple times while he laid on the street.
On September 21, an 82-year-old Uber driver named J. Gerald Smith was killed in Delray Beach, Florida. Smith died after his vehicle was struck by a possibly-intoxicated man driving a Lamborghini “at a high rate of speed” while his girlfriend did the same in a Porsche. The driver of the Lamborghini, Roger Wittenberns, was in serious condition when police spoke to him.
Another Uber driver in London was attacked on September 20 by a cyclist who squirted his water bottle into the driver’s vehicle. The two got into a fight on the street; the Uber driver then went to a hospital. Police are said to be looking for the cyclist. Uber mistakenly charged the Uber driver’s passenger for his 90-minute trip to the hospital; the company later refunded the charge.