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Lyft announces smart trip check-in after sexual assault allegations

The ride-hailing company has added another safety feature.

lyft-logo-3

The new safety feature will predict when a customer needs help.

Angela Lang/CNET

A week after a lawsuit was filed by 14 women alleging sexual assault by Lyft drivers, the ride-hailing company has announced smart trip check-in. The new safety feature will predict when a customer needs help by sensing when a ride has "unexplained delays," Lyft said Tuesday, and will push a notification message to riders and drivers asking if they need support. It will also come with an option for customers to request emergency assistance.

Lyft is being sued over allegations of sexual assaults across the US. The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the Superior Court of California for San Francisco County, calls Lyft's response "appallingly inadequate" and alleges the company hires drivers without completing a background check, fingerprinting them or performing a job interview. Lyft has also allowed drivers accused of sexual assault to continue working for the company, the suit says.

Lyft smart trip check-in
Lyft

"We don't take lightly any instances where someone's safety is compromised, especially in the rideshare industry, including the allegations of assault in the news last week," John Zimmer, president and co-founder of Lyft, said in a blog post Tuesday.

The messages will say "Did you arrive safely?" and "Just checking in: You're still at your last drop-off location -- are you ok?" They'll come with the options to either click everything's OK, report an issue or get emergency assistance.

Smart trip check-in will launch later this year.

Lyft also announced a partnership with RAINN, the largest nonprofit anti-sexual assault organization in the US. 

Starting in the fall, every Lyft driver will be required to take community safety education with RAINN. Drivers who are then reported to have breached Lyft's community guidelines will be removed from the platform or forced to complete additional sexual violence prevention education.

Lyft also said the in-app 911 button announced in May is available today, but it looks like it takes a few clicks to access: You'll need to click on the drop down menu in the upper right corner, click emergency assistance, click call 911 and then click call. 

Lyft's 911 button takes four clicks.

Lyft

Last week's lawsuit alleges there were around 100 reports of sexual assaults by Lyft drivers in California in the one-year period prior to May 2016 and that the actual number of attacks may be triple that, with the bulk going unreported.

"What the victims describe is terrifying and has no place in the Lyft community," Mary Winfield, Lyft's head of Trust & Safety, said in an emailed statement. "As a platform committed to providing safe transportation, we hold ourselves to a higher standard by designing products and policies to keep out bad actors, make riders and drivers feel safe, and react quickly if and when an incident does occur."

The law firm that's bringing the suit on behalf of the alleged victims suggested adding automatic audio and video recording to rides to prevent assaults in the future. 

"We believe Lyft knows how many assaults occur within their cars and that is why they don't want Lyft rides recorded," attorney Mike Bomberger, of the firm Estey & Bomberger, said in an emailed press release last week.

A 2018 investigation by CNN found that more than 120 Uber and Lyft drivers had been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the four years prior to the investigation. States including California, Colorado, Massachusetts and Texas have all previously launched investigations into Uber and Lyft over allegations of failing to screen drivers properly.

San Francisco's Rideshare with Care public awareness campaign, launched in September last year, tells passengers to ensure the license plate of a car matches the plate on their app. In March, a University of South Carolina student was allegedly murdered by a man posing as an Uber driver.