Uber has a new training requirement for drivers

August 7, 2020, 1:00 PM UTC

Following widespread complaints of rape and harassment on its service, Uber plans to require all of its U.S. and Canadian drivers to complete sexual assault and misconduct training.

Drivers will have to sit through six online videos about safety that are intended to reduce assaults and creepy behavior against passengers and drivers.

The new program comes eight months after Uber published its first-ever report detailing the number of murders and sexual assaults against both drivers and passengers. Between 2017 and 2018, 19 people using the service were murdered, and nearly 6,000 said they were sexually assaulted.

“We have taken bold actions for several years now,” Tracey Breeden, Uber’s head of women’s safety and gender-based operations, said about the new training program. “This is really about raising the bar and being consistent in the actions we’re taking.”

Drivers will have six months after reactivating their accounts—many drivers are currently inactive due to the coronavirus—to complete their training requirement. New drivers won’t have to complete the program until logging a minimum number of rides.

The ride-hailing giant’s new educational program was developed in partnership with the anti–sexual assault nonprofit Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). It will start rolling out next week in English to active Uber drivers, with subtitles for Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Mandarin, and French Canadian.

The new training videos feature Uber drivers who cover topics including respecting the privacy of others, conversational boundaries, respecting others’ personal space, sexual violence awareness, and bystander intervention.

Prior to the new training program, Uber drivers were required to agree to Uber’s community guidelines, which include sections about sexual misconduct and links to tools for reporting it. Those guidelines outline inappropriate behavior like winking, whistling, or commenting on appearances, along with providing links to an anti–sexual assault campaign created in partnership with a nonprofit organization.

In addition to reminding drivers about those policies, Uber’s new videos dive deeper into more nuanced issues like why it’s inappropriate to ask someone if they’re married. Also, the videos counsel drivers against asking whether passengers are on their way home, which would provide insight into that person’s home address. 

“This training [includes] those subtle things that create an environment where people feel unsafe,” said Breeden, who worked for 15 years in law enforcement prior to joining Uber.

Uber has been working with anti–sexual assault organizations since 2017 on training for riders and drivers. In 2017, the company committed $5 million to sexual violence prevention programs. The following year, it sent related information to riders and drivers as part of a partnership with No More. And last year, Uber and RAINN teamed up to create videos that are sent to riders and drivers who are accused of more minor sexual misconduct, like inappropriate conversations.

RAINN advised Uber to create the new sexual misconduct training, explaining that education is one of the best ways to prevent sexual violence. Clara Kim, RAINN’s vice president of consulting, said the videos let Uber do more than just react to the problem.

“Ten or 15 years ago, before ride share, [sexual misconduct] would be something you’d think about before you get into a stranger’s car,” she said. “But now that dynamic is different. … So yes, education and awareness [are] critical.”

Uber said it intends to continue working with partners to develop more educational programs. The current training is a one-time requirement, but Breeden said the company is considering whether Uber should make it more of a recurring part of driver training.

“It’s about allowing experts to inform us and continuing to improve on those efforts,” Breeden said.

In addition to releasing its safety report last year, Uber also debuted a way for passengers and drivers to text 911 for help. It also created a system that lets drivers and riders verify their rides using PIN numbers along with a reporting tool for riders to report nonemergency safety issues during a ride. The company is also testing a hotline for people who experienced sexual misconduct during an Uber ride to get psychological help, and if needed, information about how to get physical help through RAINN in several cities.

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