CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

Tech Industry

Uber driver accused of sexual assault in China

Another report surfaces of an Uber driver attacking a passenger -- calling into question the safety of the ride-hailing service in one of its fastest growing markets.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick calls the company's growth in China "remarkable and unprecedented." Uber

Uber is coming under fire again for its drivers allegedly sexually assaulting female passengers. This time its in China, one of Uber's fastest growing markets.

Chinese police arrested an Uber driver in Chengdu on Wednesday for allegedly pulling a knife on a passenger and then robbing and molesting her, according to Reuters. This is the second known alleged sexual assault by an Uber driver in China in the last couple of months.

Uber, which connects passengers with drivers via a smartphone app, is the world's largest ride-hailing service. Since its founding in 2009, Uber has expanded across the world and now has drivers in 60 countries. But that expansion has come at a price. While Uber says safety is its "No. 1 priority," lawmakers and government regulators have routinely criticized the company about the actual safety of its service.

Various media reports of alleged rape, sexual harassment and groping by Uber drivers have surfaced throughout the US, including in California, Washington D.C., Illinois, Texas, Florida, Massachusetts and several other states. There have also been alleged incidents of sexual assault in the UK, France, Australia and India. After the beating and raping of a female passenger in Delhi, India, last December, local officials banned Uber for several months.

The most recent incident in China happened a few weeks ago after a 42-year-old woman ordered an Uber ride at 2 a.m., according to Reuters. The driver allegedly stopped the car in a city tunnel and stole $780, or 5,000 Yuan, from the woman at knifepoint. He then reportedly drove to the edge of town, molested the woman, took photos of her and said he'd make the pictures public if she called the police.

It took the woman two weeks to finally report the incident, according to Reuters. Uber didn't return request for comment.

China is Uber's most desired market. The company has put a heavy emphasis on expanding and growing its presence there over the past year. In June, CEO Travis Kalanick reportedly sent a letter to investors that said the company will invest more than $1 billion for its China expansion during 2015. He added that Uber plans to add 50 more cities in the country within the next year.

"Since our launch in February 2014, we have found a public that is embracing Uber far beyond our most bullish expectations," Kalanick wrote to investors. He noted that in its first six months of availability in the Chinese city of Chengdu, Uber usage is 46 times greater than it was during its first six months in New York.

In December, Uber touted its global success, saying that its service was used for 1 million daily rides in 2014. In his letter to investors, Kalanick said that in the last month, Uber hit the same mark in China, alone. He called the growth "remarkable and unprecedented."

Uber has also reportedly been able to drum up financing from Chinese investors. The company's China branch is said to have closed on a $1 billion fundraising round on Thursday, according to Reuters. The investors reportedly include Hillhouse Capital, which is Asia's biggest hedge fund, and Chinese Internet company Baidu, among others.

Still, Uber faces steep competition from local taxi-hailing companies like Didi Kuaidi, which is backed by Chinese e-commerce giants Tencent and Alibaba. Some estimates have placed Didi Kuaidi's market share at 95 percent in China.

Additionally, Uber has dealt with ongoing issues with Chinese regulators. In May, local authorities visited Uber's offices in Guangzhou and Chengdu to investigate whether it was operating an unlicensed (and thus, illegal) taxi operation. And earlier this year, China's Ministry of Transport called for tighter laws against unlicensed taxis, specifically referring to apps like Uber.