Will This New Feature Finally Make Uber Safe?

Finally, a story about Uber in which they’re not being inherently evil, sort of: Uber is introducing a “Safe Ride Checklist” for riders in Boston and Chicago, where drivers have been accused of sexually assaulting female passengers. “What, Uber actually doing something helpful for women?” You might be asking yourself. “It is a New Year’s miracle? New year, new Uber?” I don’t want to build your hopes up too much before they inevitably come crashing down so I’m going to tell you that, sorry, you shouldn’t get too excited.

Here’s the deal with the safe ride checklist: before you get in your Uber, a little message will pop up with three prompts. It will ask you to “confirm the license plate number in the app matches the one on the driver’s vehicle,” “confirm the name and picture of the driver in app matches the driver in the car,” and then ends with “Questions? Send us an email or tweet and we’ll be in touch.”

Uh, OK. If you were like me and your first thought was, “Yeah, but if I recall correctly, weren’t all the sexual assaults committed by real Uber drivers and not people pretending to be Uber drivers?” then you would be 1000 percent correct.

While it’s not bad advice to make sure you’re getting into the right car, and you certainly should be practicing not getting into strange cars willy-nilly, that was never Uber’s problem to begin with. Not to mention, am I the only one who's not comforted by the whole "if you have a serious emergency, email or tweet us and wait around to maybe get a response" aspect? I’m left wondering if Uber means well and missed the mark, or if they actually don’t care about safety and are just trying to protect themselves? I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

Furthermore, some people point to this “safety checklist” as yet another example of victim-blaming. Abigail Tracy at Vocativ writes, “Here’s the bottom line: a company shouldn’t have to advise its customers on how not to get sexually assaulted by its employees. And if it does, a ‘How Not to Get Raped’ FAQ is a pretty lame response.” But here’s the thing though! Uber isn’t even advising customers on how not to get assaulted by their employees — it’s advising them on how not to get assaulted by people posing as their employees, totally ignoring the actual issue that their actual employees actually assault actual customers, actually! Way to go, Uber, side-stepping the issue completely.

If Uber were really concerned with their drivers harming passengers, I’d wager they would maybe a) conduct rigorous background checks b) take allegations seriously or c) make a “Don’t Get Assaulted” checklist that would look more like, “Make sure you’ve taken mental notes of your driver’s appearance and vehicle, and keep a detailed record of any suspicious behavior and report it to authorities right away.” I made that last item up in 10 seconds based on what I've gleaned from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, so I think that shows you how much thought Uber put into their list.

And why are they only putting this checklist in the two cities where women were allegedly assaulted? I’m no programmer, but I imagine it can’t be that hard to put a pop-up in every user’s app, right? As one Twitter user put it:

Shots. Fired.

Here are my solutions. One, we all stop using Uber because even though I’m not usually the type to boycott a brand because of a scandal, Uber has proven time and time again that they don’t care about their customers. Is that really who you want to be giving your hard-earned money to?

Two, consider switching to Lyft if it’s available. I’m not saying Lyft is foolproof, but I am saying that they do conduct background checks on their drivers and provide liability insurance — can confirm, started the Lyft application process once. Three, download Safe Trek! It’s an app that is super simple to use. Basically, when you’re going somewhere and you feel unsafe, launch the app. Then, you hold your finger down on the safe button on your screen. When you get home safely, release your finger and enter a four-digit pin within 10 seconds. If an emergency happens, release your finger and don’t enter your pin and police will be notified of your location. Isn’t that awesome?! Luckily, I’ve never had to use mine, but don’t you just love the idea? I do. Together, we can stop supporting an app that is (Jean Ralphio voice) the woooooooooorst!

Images: Adam Fagen / Flickr; Galen Moore / Twitter; Giphy (5)