Would you rather take an Uber ride home alone late at night or have a self-driving taxi service come pick you up with no one at the front wheel?
The prospect of riding in a car with only a stranger driving can feel as unsafe as some people feel about new self-driving technology, as a study from car insurance company The Zebra recently found.
After surveying 2,000 American passengers in August, 53 percent of those surveyed said they felt safer in an autonomous vehicle than a solo ride with a driver. Younger respondents between ages 18 and 24 were more accepting of self-driving vehicles compared to those 55 and older, who preferred a human-driven ride. Self-driving vehicles continue to rank low in consumer confidence, a recent J.D. Power and SurveyMonkey study shows.
Driver-operated rides on ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft have become a routine, accepted way to get around. But recent reports of drivers involved in sexual assaults and kidnappings put the basic premise of ride-sharing (essentially catching a ride with a stranger) in a different light.
Just this week Lyft passenger Alison Turkos filed a lawsuit against Lyft for a ride she took in New York in 2017.
In a blog post titled, "Why I'm Suing Lyft," Turkos laid out her "living nightmare" where her Lyft driver kidnapped her at gunpoint, drove her miles away from her destination, and sexually assaulted her. At least two other attackers also sexually assaulted her. She says Lyft still charged her $12.81 for the ride and didn't remove the driver from the platform, even after reporting her attack two days later.
The suit – filed Tuesday in San Francisco where Lyft is based – claims Lyft was negligent, misrepresents its safety standards, and failed to properly address safety concerns from survivors like Turkos.
"It has become clear that this company has never been interested in believing or supporting victims," Turkos wrote. "I have had to become my own advocate to hold systems like Lyft accountable to me and survivors like me."
In a statement, a Lyft spokesperson said, "What these riders describe is awful, and something no one should have to endure. We constantly work to improve the platform, which is why we have invested in new features, protocols and policies to protect our riders and drivers."
For this particular case, Lyft first received the incident as an indirect route report and didn't know it was a safety incident until May 2018, when the company started working with law enforcement after a subpoena was filed.
A group of 14 women sued Lyft earlier in September for similar claims about inadequate responses to multiple kidnapping and sexual assault cases.
Both Uber and Lyft have added more safety features to proactively make rides safer. New tools in the app monitor the ride for any unusual stops and both companies finally have a 911 button to push in an emergency. Until recently, Lyft only had a critical response phone line you had to track down through its website.