Earlier this week, India banned U.S. ride-sharing company Uber following reports of an alleged rape committed by an Uber driver in New Delhi. Now, Uber has apologized to the Indian rape victim, a woman in her 20s, and promised to "come back better and stronger for the New Delhi community." But it may be a tough uphill battle for the start-up, which is having quite the PR problem this year — and "PR problem" might actually be an understatement.
According to Times of India, a 25-year-old (some accounts reported her age as 27) Indian woman was raped by an Uber driver last Saturday evening during her ride home. The driver, who has bee identified as Shiv Kumar Yadav, reportedly took the woman to a remote location after she fell asleep in the backseat of the car.
Police officials told NDTV that after the woman was sexually assaulted, the driver allegedly threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the crime. He then dropped her off at her home, but fortunately, the woman was able to take a picture of the car's license plate number and provide it to authorities. Yadav was taken into custody, and is currently being held in jail until his court appearance on Dec. 24, India Today reported.
"We are sorry and deeply saddened by what happened over the weekend in New Delhi," Uber India said in a statement, titled "Moving to a Safer New Dehli, Together" and posted on its company website on Thursday.
Uber's statement continued:
Our hearts go out to the victim of this horrible crime. We have been and will continue to do everything in our power to assist the authorities to help bring the perpetrator to justice. The events of this week have made us reflect on our operations in India and we are immediately undertaking a number of important actions. During this review, we will suspend operations in New Delhi.
In a previously released statement, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick underscored the importance of background checks, which he insinuated were "currently absent in their [India's] commercial transportation licensing programs." Kalanick seemed to put the blame on Uber India for having a shoddy system of screening drivers and not taking the proper means of precaution.
Although an Uber executive in India said earlier this week that the company provides comprehensive background checks on drivers, the Associated Press reported that New Delhi police were investigating whether or not Uber does have sufficient information on its drivers. An official told the AP that Uber drivers in India aren't provided with the special badges given to taxi drivers that say the driver has passed a background check. Uber India drivers only need to be registered with a valid driver's license."We need to find out if they [Uber] have any formulated procedures to honor the promise [of safety]," the police official told the AP.
As police pressure and global criticism mounts, Uber India said on Thursday the company is conducting a "full audit of our verification, rider feedback and support processes," and plans to reassess "rider feedback on every driver partner across India." Going forward, the company said it will implement comprehensive background checks on all Uber drivers in India "and beyond."
Uber India added the it will work with groups "that are championing women’s safety here in New Delhi" and across the country, presumably as a way to better understand the nature of sexual violence and how to foster a safer environment for women.
The company concluded:
Safety is our top priority. We are fully committed to partnering with and are in discussions with the government, other transportation organisations and safety experts in India to implement robust solutions to ensure a safe ride.Our efforts will not end there. Uber stands shoulder to shoulder with the cities we serve, and are investing in technology advances to help make cities a safer place.Your support means a lot to us. We will come back better and stronger for the New Delhi community, ready to serve you again.
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