Uber received more than 3,000 reports of sexual assaults in U.S. in 2018

Ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies Inc. on Thursday said it had received more than 3,000 reports of sexual assault, including rape, related to its trips in the United States in 2018, at a time when it operated roughly 1.3 billion rides.

2018 figure includes reports of 235 rapes across the company's 1.3 billion rides

An Uber pick-up location is pictured in San Diego in September. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

Ride-hailing firm Uber Technologies said Thursday it received more than 3,000 reports of sexual assault, including rape, related to its trips in the United States in 2018 — a time when it operated roughly 1.3 billion rides.

Uber said the 2018 figures represented a 16 per cent drop in the rate of incidents from the previous year in the five most serious categories of sexual assault reported.

The report comes as Uber is under pressure from regulators in many cities, including London, which recently rescinded the company's licence to carry passengers over a "pattern of failures" on safety and security.

Uber said the 84-page report showed its commitment to transparency with the goal of driving "accountability and improve safety for Uber and the entire industry."

The company also said Uber rides were involved in 58 traffic fatalities, and nine murders in 2018.

"Keeping this information in the dark doesn't make anyone safer," Uber said in a statement announcing the report.

Uber noted that the vast majority — 99.9 per cent — of rides did not have any reported safety issues. 

Drivers often were victims, despite generally being cast as aggressors in media reports, it added. Riders, in fact, accounted for roughly half of the accused parties in cases of sexual assault, it said.

Chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi in tweets said that the company would be better off for publishing the data.

"I suspect many people will be surprised at how rare these incidents are; others will understandably think they're still too common. Some people will appreciate how much we've done on safety; others will say we have more work to do. They will all be right," Khosrowshahi wrote.

Sexual assault in the report is defined broadly into categories including non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part, attempted non-consensual sexual penetration, non-consensual touching of a sexual body part, non-consensual kissing of a sexual body part and non-consensual sexual penetration.

There were 229 rapes in 2017, and 235 rapes in 2018.

A man uses the Uber application on his mobile phone. (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters)

Altogether, 0.0003 per cent of trips had a report of a "critical safety incident" — including sexual assaults, fatal crashes and fatal physical assault.

Mike Bomberger, a lawyer representing more than 100 victims of sexual assault in lawsuits against Uber and Lyft, said he applauds Uber for releasing the numbers. "One of the problems with both of these companies is that they have hidden and have tried to conceal the number of sexual assaults that occur in their vehicles," he said.

Bomberger said he believes 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the assaults in the Uber report could have been prevented by measures such as cameras in the cars recording rides and the companies reporting each assault it learns of to the police.

The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network said it appreciated Uber's transparency.

"This is an issue that affects every institution in America, and understanding the problem is an important step in the effort to solve it," RAINN press secretary Emily Robinson said in a statement. "We'd love to see organizations in every industry, including educational institutions, make a similar effort to track and analyze sexual misconduct within their communities."

Uber's share price dropped more than one per cent in after-hours trading.

With files from The Associated Press