When Uber came up with the tagline “everyone’s private driver,” they probably didn’t have “getaway driver” in mind. But it appears a growing number would-be robbers are using the ride-hailing service for that very purpose.
The latest example came on Monday, when a man was arrested for robbing a bank in Weymouth, Mass. Luis Mallett. is accused of robbing $700 from a local bank and hailing an Uber driver to make off with his loot.
Police used a description of the vehicle to track down the car, a red Nissan Altima. Mallett was reportedly found in the back seat and arrested without incident.
It was just the latest such incident. In March 2015, a trio of alleged robbers got into an Uber in New York City and fired shots out of the car while the trip was in progress. The panicked driver contacted Uber, and the company was able to use its GPS system to help police locate and apprehend the suspects.
Later that year, a man used an Uber to flee after robbing a convenience store in Baltimore at gunpoint; police were able to locate the vehicle and arrest the suspect.
Earlier this year, police in Richmond, Virginia said a woman used an Uber car to get away after shoplifting from a Walmart. The appeal of using Uber as a getaway car was summed up by a shopper who was interviewed by WWBT, a local news station.
“She probably didn’t have a car and thought, ‘If I call Uber, I won’t have to call anyone else, and they are anonymous. I can just get someone I don’t know to pick me up, and everything will be OK,'” the woman said.
It may not have worked out for these would-be thieves, but, of course, cases in which cool criminals succeeded in using ride-hailing services to leave crime scenes would go unreported. In such instances, there’d be no reason a driver would be any wiser for it; and in any case, the driver would not know the full name or have contact information for the passenger.
Stories about ride-hailing passengers victimizing or exploiting drivers don’t get the same coverage as incidents when the roles are reversed.
But there is plenty of anecdotal evidence on driver blogs that such incidents are not usual.
There was the shocking example of a Taco Bell executive – now former – who viciously pummeled an Uber driver.
Neither Uber or Lyft regularly report attacks on drivers, nor do they offer much in the way of safety training to drivers or guidance should they suddenly find themselves in harm’s way.
Uber’s advice consists essentially of calling 911. Only when “all parties are out of harm’s way,” does the company recommend calling its “critical safety response line,” according to its website.
Lyft’s driver safety policies are a bit more detailed and include a “no weapons” rule.
But neither company offers any kind of training as part of being a driver.
As a recent article in Wired noted, safety training for drivers might undermine the companies’ claim that drivers are independent contractors.
The business models of Uber and similar companies “only allow them to do so much to ensure driver safety,” the article notes. “True training would put that employment classification at risk and bolster claims that drivers should be made full employees.”