SAN FRANCISCO — Denver law professor Nancy Leong hailed an Uber to get to the airport Tuesday morning. She says she wound up on a ride to hell, “pounding on the windows.”
Leong blasted out a series of tweets — which briefly vanished a few hours later when Leong temporarily deleted her Twitter account — that described how her driver pulled off the highway leading to Denver International Airport and announced that he was going to take her to a hotel.
At a stop light, Leong took action, demanding that she be let out of the car, whose doors she says the driver refused to unlock. She screamed and pounded on the windows until nearby construction workers took notice. The driver then unlocked the doors and Leong got out.
“I think it probably goes without saying that I am uncomfortable with this person having my home address, which is where he picked me up,” Leong tweeted at Uber. “I’d like to know what you’re going to do about this.”
Uber spokesperson Andrew Hasbun called the incident “awful and unacceptable,” and added that the driver in question was being blocked from the network while it investigated the incident.
USA TODAY sent an email to Leong requesting comment on her ordeal, but she has not responded.
Late Tuesday, Leong tweeted out her thanks to those who expressed concern on her Twitter feed and confirmed she was in touch with Uber.
Over the course of its nine-year history, Uber has continually contended with incidents in which women were harassed — or worse — by drivers on its network.
Last fall, two unnamed women filed a proposed class action suit against Uber, accusing the ride-sharing company of poor driver vetting that has led to thousands of female passengers enduring a range of sexual harassment, including rape.
The plaintiffs alleged that to keep profits up, Uber has not properly screened or monitored its drivers. Services like Uber and Lyft use third-party companies to screen new drivers for criminal histories and driving violations.
Fingerprint checks are not done, however, because ride-hailing companies say such scans often do not pull up relevant data.
Perhaps the most egregious example of Uber’s past attitude towards such incidents involves an Indian woman who was raped by her driver in 2014.
After the incident, Uber’s then CEO Travis Kalanick was provided with the woman’s medical records because senior executives were concerned that the assault might be part of a rival service’s plan to discredit Uber. Last summer, the victim sued Uber.
In Colorado, Uber last fall was ordered to pay an $8.9 million fine issued by the state’s public utilities commission after regulators found that dozens of drivers were operating there despite having criminal histories. The fine was later cut in half after Uber pointed out that the commission had already dropped half of the cases under review.
Leong, who teaches constitutional law and civil rights, described a terrifying morning with particular specificity to her 11,000 followers.
After being freed from the car, she says the driver got out of the vehicle and approached her as she demanded to be given her suitcase, which was in the trunk.
The Uber driver’s car apparently then rolled into a busy intersection because the parking brake had not been set, almost causing an accident.
Leong says she then waited for another Uber to pick her up — because she had no other option to get to the airport — and the construction workers waiting with her until the new driver arrived. Leong says the new driver “was lovely.”
Leong observed that when looking through her Uber history and focusing on the driver’s picture, “the person (who picked her up) did not look like his picture in the profile.”
But Uber’s Hasbun told USA TODAY that the driver who picked up Leong was indeed the same man its records have associated with that vehicle. “This was not an imposter situation,” he said.
Uber has continued to face issues despite trying to turn over a new corporate leaf with the installation last September of its new CEO, former Expedia Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi.
The latest debacle involves an Uber self driving car that killed a pedestrian in Arizona, an incident that has caused some autonomous car constituents to rethink the notion of testing such technology on public roads.
~source: usa today