The driver, Alejandro Done, was identified through the app, which matches riders with nearby available drivers in its database. Done, 46, is currently being held without bail. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, rape, assault to rape, and assault and battery.
After picking up his passenger on Boston’s Tremont Street, Done allegedly insisted that she needed to take out cash from an ATM to pay him. (Part of Uber’s appeal is that it is a no-cash, purely digital-transaction service.) Following the stop at the ATM, Done allegedly took her to a remote location where he assaulted her in the back seat. The woman later reported the assault to the Cambridge police.
According to the Boston Globe, this is the fourth incident of its kind in the Boston area this month alone. On Dec. 14, three women, at least two of whom were using Uber, reported “indecent assaults” after summoning rides.
Uber issued a statement about safety on its company blog on Thursday that emphasized its “thorough, multi-layered” background checks and driver-ratings system, stressing that these safety precautions were unique to its platform.
Yet Uber’s much-touted background checks have faced serious criticism in recent months. The New York Times reported that the company is trying to stop state legislation that would require ridesharing services to conduct background checks on par with those to which taxi drivers submit.
While Uber isn’t alone in its opposition to such laws, “supporters of stronger background checks say Uber has been by far the most aggressive.”
Uber often lauds its ridesharing platform as a safe alternative to traditional taxi services, but its safety record undermines its promises. With so many blemishes on its image, it remains to be seen whether Uber can successfully eliminate the risk inherent in getting a ride from a stranger—or whether it will even try.