One of the big questions facing on-demand car services like Uber is this: Exactly who the hell is driving me around? Really, that's a question that many people ask themselves during any car ride with a stranger–taxis included. But services like Uber and Lyft are new players in the game and therefore under much more scrutiny, especially since they promise a better experience than your traditional cab.
A Panorama City Uber driver has been arrested and accused of kidnapping an inebriated club-goer. The driver, 32, picked up the passenger, a 26-year-old woman, at the request of the nightclub. It was an off-the-books ride, but the driver was in fact an Uber driver.
According to police, the driver "took advantage of the situation, and drove her to a cheap motel, which he had visited before, and carried her into the room. He slept the night in the room, and when she awoke, he let her leave, though he asked her to stay, according to the victim."
After first alleging that no sexual assault occurred, police now say that the victim claims the driver "fondled her over her clothes and suggested he wanted to have sex, but didn't force it."
The driver is currently being held on $1 million bond.
Uber has released a statement on the incident:
Uber became aware this afternoon of a serious incident in Los Angeles. The facts are unknown at this stage and it’s certainly unclear that this is an Uber-related incident, as the driver in question was not logged in, connected to or operating on the platform at the time. We have reached out to authorities and will work with them to help uncover the facts. It is also our policy to immediately suspend a driver’s account following any serious allegations, which we have done. Nothing is more important to Uber than the safety of our riders.
As LA Weekly points out, the is not the first time that an Uber driver has been accused of malfeasance. Uber is currently embroiled in a wrongful death suit after the tragic accident that took the life of a six-year-old girl on New Year's Eve.
Like the driver accused of this recent kidnapping, the driver involved in that death did in fact work for Uber, but was not providing services for Uber at the time–he was off the clock, basically.
Oftentimes, we're at our most vulnerable when calling for a ride. We're drunk, tired, and can't drive ourselves. We trust that whoever's driving the car knows where to go and carries no bad intentions. With any service like Uber, there are going to be people who find a way to take advantage of the system–but these startups are going to have to find a way to battle the bad press and eliminate these very public incidents.
And I don't know if a $1 'Safe Rides Fee' is going to do it.
Image via Uber, Facebook