LOS ANGELES — Uber has apologized to a woman who claims she was effectively kidnapped when she was locked in a vehicle by one of the company’s drivers and taken to a vacant parking lot in Los Angeles.
The mobile app-based taxi service that utilizes the personal vehicles of its drivers has reportedly sent the woman an email apologizing for an “inefficient route.”
The still-unnamed woman’s story first appeared on the website Valleywag, which shares an affiliation with Gawker.
The woman told Valleywag her Los Angeles Uber driver ignored her questions and directions and took her almost 20 miles out of her way, resulting in a two-hour drive that should have taken 20 minutes.
When she tried to exit the car, the woman said the driver locked the doors, trapping her inside, and only took her home after she screamed and began causing a commotion.
For what it’s worth, the Valleywag story was written by Sam Biddle, an author who hasn’t exactly taken a neutral stance on Uber, even going so far as to call the company’s CEO Travis Kalanick an “unapologetic a——” in a prior story.
Uber has also responded to the Valleywag story, telling The Verge that the report on the ride is “inaccurate.” Based on the information the company has received, spokesperson Eva Behrend said, their driver was actually attempting to help “an intoxicated rider who requested an extended trip.”
“We have refunded the rider’s trip and reached out to her for additional information,” Behrend said.
The passenger claimed she was yet to hear from Uber as of Tuesday, aside from receiving an automated reply apologizing for the “inefficient route.”
Both the passenger and Uber have claimed the police were contacted about this incident, with Uber reporting their driver called 911 for assistance with the unruly passenger and the passenger telling Valleywag she was dealing with the Los Angeles Police Department through an attorney.
However, the LAPD was unable to confirm it received a 911 call from the driver and said it also hadn’t received a complaint from the passenger as of Tuesday.
While there are plenty of discrepancies in this story, this isn’t the first time Uber has been accused of misconduct.
The company’s UberX service, a mobile-based car service that is subject to fewer regulations than traditional taxi services and thus offers much cheaper fares, allows almost anyone with a vehicle to become a driver.
Citing Uber’s own website, which notes that while potential drivers do receive a background check, they aren’t subject to “a formal interview process,” many have claimed mobile-based taxi services employ less responsible drivers due to a lack of vetting.
And allegations against Uber’s drivers haven’t exactly been in short supply.
Though yet to be convicted, Uber drivers have been arrested for allegedly taking a heavily-intoxicated woman to his hotel room, bashing a passenger in the head with a hammer and running over and killing three individuals in a crosswalk.
Uber has defended itself against these drivers by insisting they were not working for the company at the time of the incidents, opening a debate about what “working for Uber” actually means.
Uber has also recently managed to make enemies out of former fans.
In July, tech company CEO Ryan Simonetti, who called himself a “diehard Uber fan” who had used the taxi service all across the country, said he was taken on a high speed chase across state lines by an Uber driver.
After he found out Uber was reportedly spying on him for kicks at a launch party in Chicago, entrepreneur Peter Simms, who called himself a “big fan of Uber since the initial prototypes,” said he has “given up on being able to trust the company.”
There have also been accusations from competitors, including Lyft, which has accused Uber of instructing 177 of its drivers and recruiters to book then cancel over 5,000 rides with Lyft drivers.
In response to some of the recent incidents, Uber began tacking on a $1 surcharge to every UberX ride as part of a “safe rides fee” that the company says is meant to “ensure the safest possible platform.”
In response to allegations that the company is skirting necessary safety regulations, Uber has stated that since it is primarily a technology business, it therefore is not required to comply with local and state taxi and limo laws that may require higher safety standards.
Colorado has given companies like Uber a vote of confidence on the legislation front, becoming the first state to essentially legalize mobile-based taxi services.
A bill passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper in June allows companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in Colorado, effectively nullifying formal complaints filed by the state’s public utilities commission, which maintained mobile-based taxi service providers were operating illegally.
The bill classified companies like Uber and Lyft as transportation network companies (TNCs) separate from taxis and limos, and placed them under the oversight of the Colorado’s public utilities commission.
Under the new law, the companies’ drivers must pass criminal background and driving history checks, and their vehicles must pass inspections and be clearly marked as TNC cars. Drivers must also carry personal car insurance in addition to the commercial insurance provided by the company.