2019-09-10 by W.M.
Amid sexual assault concerns, Lyft tries to reassure riders with safety measures
The company said an in-app 911 feature is now available to riders. But its other two announcements were promises for the future: It has partnered with anti-sexual assault nonprofit RAINN to create a mandatory safety exercise for driver applicants, and it is planning to add a feature to detect unexpected delays on trips later this year.
The company provided few details about its mandatory “community safety education” module that drivers will have to complete as part of applying to work for Lyft. The company said current drivers will also eventually be required to complete it in order to continue providing rides on the platform. (Competitor Uber has partnered with RAINN to create educational videos that are sent to riders or drivers after a complaint is reported.)
One expert called the Lyft mandatory education measure “potentially important,” but said evaluating the effectiveness of the training, and whether a high score actually translates into a well-behaved driver, for example, will be key.
“There’s a big gap between knowledge and behavior. Our knowledge doesn’t translate directly into behavior and behavior is what’s important to evaluate,” said Susan B. Sorenson, director of the Ortner Center on Violence & Abuse at the University of Pennsylvania.
In the wake of that report, Uber, followed by Lyft, eliminated its forced arbitration policy for sexual harassment and assault complaints — for drivers, riders and employees — and removed a confidentiality requirement as part of settlement agreements.
For example, the 911 feature, which makes it easy for drivers and riders to call and inform dispatchers of their current location and vehicle information in the event of an emergency, was first announced in May, and had been expected to roll out to riders “in the coming weeks.” By comparison, Uber launched the feature in a few cities in April 2018 before expanding it and adding Rapid SOS integration to automatically share that location information in select cities.
Additionally, Lyft said Tuesday that it will “roll out this year” a feature to predict if someone needs help based on detecting unexplained delays. It will then send messages to riders and drivers to ask if they need help or emergency assistance.
Still waiting on data
When asked about the Lyft updates, Stanford student and rideshare safety advocate Allison Tielking said, “this shows that Lyft is starting to pay more attention after the threats to its ‘woke’ image.”