Another Uber driver arrested for sexual assault. That was one of the headlines when a Boston woman reported her driver "indecently touched her several times" last month, according to the Boston Police Department.
Such incidents seem frighteningly common now. In the past year alone, there have been several high-profile reports of drivers attacking passengers of ridesharing services like Uber. In the United States, there were assaults reported in Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Oklahoma, Los Angeles, and Orlando.
But how dangerous is Uber compared with a taxi or limousine?
"There's no way to search for that," said Neva Coakley, a spokeswoman for the Boston Police Department. "We wouldn't be able to speak to that because we don't have data to support it. We don't distinguish between what type of suspects they are."
In other words, Boston doesn't track assaults by where they happen—in a taxi, in an Uber, or in someone's home—so there's no data to compare reports against Uber drivers versus taxi drivers or limo drivers. That's true in other cities, too. We asked police departments in five cities—Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.—for information about assaults against passengers of taxis or Uber cars. None of them tracked violent crimes at that level. This is meaningful because it underscores how the narrative about ridesharing and public safety is largely anecdotal. It raises another question, too: If Uber is potentially unsafe for passengers, what about taxis?