Uber and Lyft can no longer keep their safety reports quite so secret. Their California regulator reversed a rule shielding that data from public view.
In a dramatic reversal, the agency that regulates the state’s massive ride-hailing industry has proposed that annual safety reports filed by Uber and Lyft should be presumed public. A San Francisco Public Press investigation published Jan. 7 found that the California Public Utilities Commission, the primary regulator of the state’s ride-hailing industry, has permitted the firms to file the reports confidentially on the basis of a single sentence inserted into the regulations as footnote 42, without prior public notice amid heavy industry lobbying.
The California Public Utilities Commission says it expects to decide by the end of March whether to revise or throw out an obscure footnote that it has used to justify keeping data about thousands of ride-hailing accidents across the state under wraps. “We anticipate issuing a decision on the matter in the first quarter of 2020,” commission President Marybel Batjer said in a letter dated Jan. 27 to Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. The agency also “has established a team dedicated to investigating potential TNC misconduct.”
Two state legislators and the chairman of San Francisco’s transportation board say the California Public Utilities Commission should release secret safety records on thousands of ride-hailing accidents. Their comments came in response to a San Francisco Public Press investigation that found the agency has been keeping confidential reports on accidents involving Uber, Lyft and other app-based transportation firms for more than six years.
The number of ride-hailing accidents is rising as the services boom. But the industry has hidden safety records — with help from its chief regulator. 1. Footnote 42
Around midnight on March 13, 2016, Robert Robinson and his wife, Ruth, used the Uber app to hail a ride to their home at the edge of Nob Hill. Uber driver Baher Tamim saw their request flash onto the screen of his device and swiftly picked them up in his white 2015 Toyota Corolla.
San Francisco-based ride-hailing giant Uber has advertised that it is “embarking on a new chapter of transparency, connectivity and community right here in the city we call home.” But the report does not include thousands of accidents involving the Uber app that the firm knows about.
After an evening of socializing in Santa Barbara, Margaret Schimmel and her brother, Joseph, hailed an Uber to take them home, but the ride turned into a nightmare, according to a lawsuit they filed against Uber and the driver in San Francisco Superior Court. The case illustrates Uber’s use of secrecy in responding to lawsuits that accuse it and its drivers of injuring people — and the hurdles that accident victims can face in trying to hold the nation’s largest ride-hailing firm accountable.