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Sexual assaults, violence & serious crashes among incidents Uber failed to report in Australia

Image credit : TaxiPoint

Uber has been issued with 13 improvement notices and over $200,000 in fines as a result of a recent safety audit by the New South Wales (NSW) Point to Point Transport Commissioner.

Uber drivers were involved in more than 500 serious incidents over 18 months, which according to a report by The Sydney Morning Herald, included sexual assaults, as well as crashes that put people in hospital, but the ridesharing giant failed to tell the regulator despite a legal requirement.

To regulate safety, the Commissioner frequently audits taxi, rideshare and other point to point transport service providers. The Commissioner recently finalised a safety audit of Uber which identified several areas where Uber has been directed to improve the safety of its services.

The audit identified instances where Uber’s systems were not being used properly or did not operate as intended. There were also gaps in addressing specific risk areas.

The Commissioner, Anthony Wing, said: “Given its size and scope, Uber has implemented sophisticated systems to manage safety on its platform, however, Uber needs to make sure that this technology is doing what it is meant to do at all times. In addition, Uber needs to make sure that its various systems are working effectively with each other to ensure the overall safety of its services. I look forward to seeing Uber make improvements to these safety systems.”

An Uber spokesperson told The Sydney Morning Herald: “While only a small number of these notifiable incidents were with regard to sexual misconduct - we want to make it clear that we take all allegations of sexual misconduct extremely seriously and work to take action quickly and fairly.”

Areas of particular concern include:

  • Driver fatigue – despite systems that Uber has in place, the audit found that over a 2 week sample period, 37% of drivers had more than 12 hours of continuous driving time with some cases of up to 17 hours of continuous driving.

  • Incident management – Uber’s application of its systems used to manage passenger complaints and incidents are not effective enough and require improvement. For example – over a 6 month period, more than 50 drivers were identified as having had multiple complaints of driver distraction (mobile phone use) and drowsy driving yet remained active on their platform.

  • Driver training – Uber provides online training for drivers but does not monitor whether the training is undertaken properly

  • Notifiable occurrences – Uber did not report a number of notifiable occurrences to the Commissioner as soon as practicable. These delays meant the Commissioner could not make timely considerations of whether Uber took appropriate actions to mitigate associated risks or whether the incidents had implications for the wider point to point transport industry.

The Commissioner audits service providers to ensure point to point transport law is complied with and there are penalties for non-compliance. Uber has been fined over $200,000 for not reporting notifiable occurrences to the Commissioner as soon as practical. Uber is also required to conduct an independent quality assurance audit to ensure their complex systems are appropriately integrated.

“Safety is my priority, and regardless of a business’ size, compliance with the law is necessary to achieve this. Most service providers will not be the same size as Uber, but all service providers need to make sure that they are effectively managing and improving the safety of their services in a practical way and in a way which is appropriate for their size.

“When NSW emerges from this latest COVID outbreak, I want an industry that is flourishing, providing lots of consumer choice and most importantly safe. Regular safety audits, such as this one, are key to achieving this,” Mr Wing said.


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