London’s governing body responsible for transportation, Transport for London (TfL), has yanked Uber’s license to operate in the city, affecting nearly 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million passengers. Uber has 21 days to appeal TfL’s decision, and will be allowed to operate throughout the appeals process.
The decision was made on the grounds of “public safety and security implications,” following several incidents of sexual assault committed by Uber drivers against passengers.
London Mayor, Sadiq Kahn commented on the decision, stating “I fully support TfL’s decision – it would be wrong if TfL continued to license Uber if there is any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety and security.”
“Public safety and security”
Between May 2015 and May 2016, UK police had investigated 32 drivers for rape or sexual assault of a passenger according to a report by The Sun last year.
Last month, UK’s Metro Police inspector, Neil Billany, informed TfL of his concern over Uber’s handling of claims against its drivers – noting that the ride sharing service continued to employ a driver after he was accused of sexual assault. The same driver proceeded to rape a second female passenger before he was fired.
“By not reporting to police promptly, Uber are allowing situations to develop that clearly affect the safety and security of the public,” wrote inspector Billany.
Sneaky Uber, tricks are for governments
Uber was also caught using a tool called “greyball” last March in the United States, which uses personal data to ensure that Uber drivers don’t pick up local government officials or their associates in order to circumvent local and state regulations where the service is not licensed to operate.
In the U.S. it was found to be in use in Portland, Philadelphia, Boston, and Las Vegas, while internationally the greyball system was deployed in France, Australia, China, South Korea and Italy.
Uber denies using the software in the UK, however the TfL expressed concern over Uber’s “approach to explaining the use of Greyball in London.”
The TfL also informed Uber this month that thousands of drivers had submitted invalid identities for background checks. The drivers were given 28 days to reapply before losing their license – a moot point now.
The Sun also reported that many Uber drivers had obtained falsified medical certificates, clearing them for work.
Sexual harassment in and out of cars
Last but not least, Uber has been rocked by reports of sexual harassment and sexism among upper management. Former engineer Susan Fowler wrote a 3,000 word blog post which tears the ‘toxic culture’ in Uber’s Silicon Valley office.
“I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense, and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he “was a high performer” (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.”
On my last day at Uber, I calculated the percentage of women who were still in the org. Out of over 150 engineers in the SRE teams, only 3% were women. –Susan Fowler
Let’s be fair though…
32 people under investigation for sexual assault out of 40,000 Uber drivers is just 0.008 percent of its London workforce. Out of any population of 40,000 taxi drivers, what’s typical?
In Halifax, Nova Scotia, there are 1,000 taxis licensed to operate, and there have been 12 reported cases of sexual assault in the last four years – a rate of 1.2%.
In 2013, the Gatestone Institute reported in 2013 that in the UK, “No woman is safe in a cab,” following a 2011 London Metro Police estimate an average of 1,125 sexual assaults per year committed by London cab drivers, out of roughly 104,000 total cab drivers in the city – a rate of just over 1 percent, in line with Halifax.
So, 0.008 percent of Uber drivers are sexually assaulting passengers – at a rate far lower than average, and London pulls their license to operate.
Looks like non-Uber cabbies in London can knock back a pint or two over their recent windfall – assuming of course that Uber loses their appeal.