Lyft has announced several changes aimed at improving safety, including mandated driver education and an in-app emergency alert system, just days after 14 woman filed a lawsuit against the ride-sharing company, arguing it fosters a culture that allows for its female riders to become targets for sexual abuse and then ignores such incidents when they’re reported.
“We don’t take lightly any instances where someone’s safety is compromised, especially in the rideshare industry, including the allegations of assault in the news last week,” Lyft president and co-founder John Zimmer said in a blog post.
“The reality is that certain populations carry a disproportionate burden simply trying to get to work or back home after a night out – in the U.S., one in six women will face some form of sexual violence in their lives. The onus is on us to learn from any incident, whether it occurs on our platform or not, and then work to help prevent them.”
Lyft unveiled two new features Tuesday including direct access to 911 within the app and a smart trip check-in, which will track “unexplained delays” to ensure rider safety.
Zimmer said when such instances are observed, they will trigger a call from a Lyft representative to the passenger, “asking if they need support from our team – and if necessary, request emergency assistance.”
The company also announced it would partner with RAINN – the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network – to “ensure we’re effective at educating our community to protect against bad actors.”
Starting in the fall, all drivers will be required to complete “additional mandatory Community Safety Education,” the details of which are unclear.
The update in safety features is a direct response to a lawsuit filed against the company on Sept. 4. The 40-page document outlines more than a dozen incidents of sexual assault that occurred during Lyft rides all over the country between January 2018 and June 2019.
Most of the victims in the suit alerted authorities directly, and all of them reported inappropriate and dangerous drivers to the company.
“Complaints to Lyft by female customers who have been attacked by Lyft drivers, combined with subsequent criminal investigations by law enforcement, clearly establish that Lyft has been fully aware of these continuing attacks by sexual predators driving for Lyft,” according to the suit, filed in San Francisco.
“Lyft’s response to this sexual predator crisis amongst Lyft drivers has been appallingly inadequate.”
Ride-sharing companies like Lyft have faced a slew of criticisms overs its handling of safety concerns in recent years. Its rival, Uber, recently committed to releasing a transparency report with data on reported sexual assaults after an investigation revealed more than 100 of its drivers had been accused of misconduct or abuse over a four-year time frame.
Uber also previously updated its app to include features to help passengers in an emergency, including a 911 button in the app.
“Bottom line: Safety must be an ongoing focus for everyone in transportation, and it’s our responsibility to continue raising the bar,” Zimmer said.
“We’re committed to playing a significant role in connecting our communities with transportation, and we understand the responsibilities that come along with that.”