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California Agency Is Hiding Uber and Lyft Accident Reports

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.

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A car with a Lyft sign drives along a city street.

Uber, Lyft Must Adopt Measures to Prevent Sexual Assaults, California Regulator Rules

Nine years after becoming the first agency in the nation to legalize ride-hailing — and after thousands of publicized sexual assaults on Uber and Lyft rides — the California Public Utilities Commission for the first time is requiring the industry to adopt comprehensive measures to prevent such attacks.

In a previously unreported vote last month, the commission issued a decision requiring that all ride-hailing firms train drivers to avoid sexual assault and harassment, adopt procedures for investigating complaints and use uniform terminology in their annual reports to the agency so it can accurately monitor them.

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Workers in white suits sift through burned debris after the Camp Fire, the largest in California history.

How California Utilities Commission Undermines the Public Records Act

Despite vows to become more transparent, the California Public Utilities Commission has systematically violated the public’s right to know about its handling of deadly disasters and corporate scandals, according to court records and First Amendment attorneys.

Applying century-old laws meant to fight corruption, the commission has effectively limited court enforcement of the state’s public records act. But a state appeals court on May 3 is hearing a lawsuit challenging that practice and could bring more transparency to the commission. 

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a ride-hailing car displays Uber and Lyft logos

Utilities Agency Admits More Problems in Tracking Ride-Hailing Assaults

The state agency responsible for ensuring that rides with Uber and Lyft are safe has acknowledged that it failed to consistently monitor passenger complaints about rapes and assaults for years. The California Public Utilities Commission confirmed in an unpublicized ruling that it had let the ride-hailing giants use varying definitions of sexual assault and harassment in their mandatory reports to the agency since at least 2017.

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Uber and Lyft vehicle

Officials Demand Reform on Uber, Lyft Assault Reports

Two key elected officials have criticized the California Public Utilities Commission’s inconsistent collection of information on passenger complaints about assaults and threats on Uber and Lyft rides and called for reforms. A leading researcher on sexual assault added that the commission’s methodology was out of line with accepted practice and that it suggested a “lack of concern” about monitoring the incidents.

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Seth Rosenfeld

Seth Rosenfeld Wins Local Freedom of Information Award for Report on Ride-Hailing Safety

A regional journalism organization recognized freelance investigative reporter Seth Rosenfeld with a freedom-of-information award this week for his Public Press series exposing secrecy and lax state regulation of the burgeoning ride-hailing industry. Rosenfeld spent five months in late 2019 and early 2020 digging into the cozy relationship between the California Public Utilities Commission and the companies it purportedly regulated, Uber and Lyft. In “Ride-Hailing’s Dark Data,” launched online in January 2020 and as a print edition cover story, Rosenfeld found that for six years the commission withheld from public view annual safety reports detailing the industry’s troubling record of crashes and injuries, with sometimes deadly consequences.

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CPUC Proposes Repealing Secrecy of Uber, Lyft Accident Data

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.

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Commission Says Ride-Hailing Secrecy Footnote to Be Addressed Soon

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.”

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