Uber says its efforts include deactivation sharing, through which Uber would publicly share the names of drivers who have been banned from its platform. They also include new technology features, such as an in-app emergency button, RideCheck (to check whether a trip goes unusually off course), Verify Your Rides (to ensure passengers get into the right vehicle by requiring a driver to input a rider's unique four-digit PIN) and Follow My Ride (to share a trip status with others from the app).
Other initiatives are a survivor hotline, sexual misconduct prevention education for drivers and a partnership with RALIANCE — a sexual violence awareness and prevention organization — to create a holistic resource center.
Uber said more than 1 million prospective drivers did not pass its screening process in 2017 and 2018, the majority of whom were disqualified during the motor vehicle record check. The company also has removed more than 40,000 drivers from the app since launching continuous driver screening technology over the past two years.
Lyft instituted similar safety features, launching more than a dozen this year, such as Smart Trip Check-in, emergency assistance and community safety education, increased criminal monitoring, license and photo verification, route location sharing, two-way ratings and anti-fraud measures.
In statements to Automotive News, Uber and Lyft spokeswomen said the companies' background checks are more comprehensive than fingerprinting and that the organizations have substantially boosted their safety efforts.
Still, some say those efforts are not enough.
"If you look at the taxi side, why do taxis not have close to the number of incidents that they have?" said Gary Buffo, president of the National Limousine Association, speaking anecdotally. "It's because we have rules and regulations that we're mandated to follow."
Comprehensive national data on taxi assaults is not available, but the association has put safety in focus, starting the Ride Responsibly campaign in 2015 to advocate for rider and driver safety within passenger transportation services.
Buffo said companies such as Uber and Lyft need to start taking on a "brick-and-mortar mentality" to manage rider and driver safety, rather than developing more in-app safety measures.
"There's no systematic way of stopping that in a wireless app environment. There's just no way of stopping it," Buffo said.
Said Greening, of LegalRideshare: "We anticipated that ride-share would disrupt the way people get from point A to point B, but we did not expect so little accountability, so little recourse."
Todd Hansen, assistant research scientist at Texas A&M University's Transportation Institute, said that while the public and lawmakers have a role, ride-hailing companies should take responsibility for safety.
"Whether it's a public or private transportation provider, it is a responsibility of that provider to show that they can safely deliver the service or the trip they are trying to provide to the customer," Hansen said.