Uber is under pressure to make its services safer for passengers.
An Uber driver was jailed by an Indian court on Tuesday for raping a customer of the ride-hailing service in Delhi.
Shiv Kumar Yadav has been handed a life sentence, the maximum possible for the crime, after being found guilty last month of kidnap, rape and criminal intimidation of a woman. The woman had been travelling home from a party in December last year when the attack occurred, Reuters reports.
The ride-hailing service vets all of its drivers, but Yadav hid his criminal record by using fake references. He admitted to the crime during interrogation.
Uber, which allows customers to hail cars using their phones, is increasingly under pressure to exert more control over its drivers, who are considered to be contractors rather than employees of the US-based company. The app has proven popular with consumers in many of the world’s busiest metropolises, but multiple incidences of sexual assault could damage trust between Uber and its customers.
A lawsuit filed against Uber in San Francisco in October claims that the company’s “negligence,” “fraud” and “misleading statements” led to the sexual assault of two female passengers. If the court finds in favour of the two women pursuing the suit, Uber could be forced to further tighten the safety precautions it takes to protect customers and vet divers.
The 26-year-old woman who was assaulted by Yadav in Delhi also initially attempted to sue Uber in the US, but voluntarily withdrew her suit in September. It is not just the legal implications of such cases, however, that Uber has to worry about. The fast-growing company, valued at $50 billion, is facing regulatory hurdles in countries all around the world and therefore also must protect and defend its reputation.
Following the assault in Delhi, Uber was temporarily banned from operating in India’s capital, but was allowed to resume business after applying for a taxi fleet license, which officially makes it a registered taxi company. Due to the nature of the service it offers, Uber is forced to negotiate how it fits into existing infrastructure in this way on an almost city-by-city basis.
The company has also worked over the last year to improve its safety record, introducing a range of new initiatives and features. In March it established a permanent global safety advisory board to review the company’s safety practices and created incident response teams in every region in which it operates, to be on call 24 hours a day and investigate and respond to “serious safety concerns.” It has also introduced some India-specific safety measures, including integrating a panic button into its app and inking a deal with Indian safety-tracking app SafetiPin.
Uber did not immediately respond for a request for comment.