Lyft unveils safety features following sexual misconduct allegations

Lyft unveils safety features following sexual misconduct allegations
© Courtesy photo

Lyft on Tuesday unveiled new safety features as the company grapples with a slew of allegations from riders who say they have been assaulted by drivers.

In a blog post, Lyft said it has partnered with a top anti-sexual assault advocacy group — the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network — as it seeks to improve safety for those using the ride-hailing app.

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Lyft will institute mandatory safety training for drivers, make it easier for app users to call 911, and build a "smart trip check-in" feature, which will alert Lyft to suspicious activity during rides, such as unexpected delays.

"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's president and co-founder, John Zimmer, said in the post.

"The onus is on all of us to learn from any incident, whether it occurs on our platform or not, and then work to help prevent them," he added.

Last week, 14 female riders sued Lyft over what they called the company’s mishandling of a “sexual predator crisis” among its drivers. 

The women, who are unnamed in the suit, alleged Lyft drivers sexually assaulted or raped them in 2018 and 2019. The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco, where the company is based. 

Mary Winfield, the head of trust and safety at Lyft, said the allegations outlined in the suit have “no place in the Lyft community.” 

The allegations include instances in which drivers locked women in cars or went on multiple-hour detours after canceling rides before assaulting and raping the women. 

Lyft said its smart trip check-in will emerge later this year.

"If a ride looks to have unexplained delays, riders and drivers will hear from us asking if they need support from our team — and if necessary, request emergency assistance. This feature was built using data from millions of trips, and will roll out this year," Zimmer wrote.

Michael Bomberger, one of the attorneys who helped file the lawsuit against Lyft in California, in a statement said Lyft has been aware of the "assault crisis in their vehicles" for years.

"Lyft has been aware of the staggering number of assaults and rapes that occur in their vehicles for years," Bomberger said. "Today's announcement is a cheap public relations stunt in response to the lawsuit we filed against them last week."

"The proposed changes announced today contain no real measures to prevent sexual assaults and rape," he added. "That is not a commitment to safety. It is a commitment to profits."

In recent years, top ride-hailing companies such as Uber have faced a sea of allegations that they do not do enough to help prevent sexual assault and harassment during rides.

Last year, an investigation found that more than 100 Uber drivers had been accused of sexual assault or abuse over the past four years. Uber has been sued multiple times by women who say they were attacked while using the app.

Uber has committed to releasing a transparency report with data on sexual assaults this year.

"Bottom line: Safety must be an ongoing focus for everyone in transportation, and it’s our responsibility to continue raising the bar," Zimmer wrote on Monday.