An early morning confrontation on New Year’s Day is again calling into question Uber’s commitment to safety. Kristy Ortiz claims that she was punched in the face by an Uber driver while on her way home from a New Year’s eve party. Details of the attack have yet to be verified, but Ortiz has a broken jaw, and cell phone video of the moments leading up to the attack (which was not recorded).
Oritz was sharing a ride with another Uber passenger through the use of “Uber Pool,” an optional feature that allows people to share rides in exchange for a reduced fare. Ortiz was in the front seat while the other unidentified passenger was riding in the back. The two got into a confrontation because Ortiz wanted to put on music. This is allegedly around the time when Ortiz’s recording begins. The driver tells her to get out of the car because she is “being combative.” He then swats Ortiz’s cell phone out of her hand and exits the car while saying “be in the car when I get over there and see what happens.” The driver then walks over to the passenger side and opens the door. That’s when Ortiz’s recording stops. Ortiz says that she remembers being hit by a closed fist from the driver, but she does not remember how she was taken out of the car. The next thing she does remember is realizing that she was bleeding and that the driver had left. Surgeons had to wire her jaw shut. You can view Ortiz’s video as well as an interview with Inside Edition here.
In a statement Uber said that they have permanently removed that driver from their platform, but it is becoming clearer and clearer that Uber has a safety problem, both for its passengers and its drivers. A website called whosdrivingyou.org posts links to news stories about driver misconduct by both Lyft and Uber drivers. Incidents range from drivers pretending to be the person the company had approved, to assault, including sexual assault. Starting in summer of 2013, of the 95 incidents reported in the United States, 85 of them accused an Uber driver. In addition, Uber seems to be the only company that is letting felons slip through their background checks. There are 32 reported cases of felons driving for Uber, and none for Lyft (though regulators are still concerned about Lyft’s background checks).
For its part, Uber continues to expand its base of operations to include a food delivery service and a messenger service, and continues to increase its profits. Since Uber is still a privately held company accurate estimates are difficult, but some believe that from 2014 to this year Uber has increased its net worth from $18 billion to nearly $40 billion.