A woman who was taken on a bizarre, two-hour-long Uber ride through Los Angeles last week claims that she was briefly kidnapped by her driver before being taken home, but Uber says that her account is inaccurate. The woman's story was widely publicized earlier today in Valleywag, which says that the driver took the woman far out of her way, brought her into an empty parking lot, and then locked the car doors when she attempted to leave. The driver is reported to have only taken her home when she began to scream.
The ride should have taken closer to 20 minutes
Uber does not yet know the full story, but it claims that current reports are quite inaccurate based on the information that it's received. In fact, Uber is under the impression that the driver was actually trying to help the passenger. It's told that the passenger was intoxicated and that the driver called 911 for assistance. For now, the LAPD is unable to confirm receipt of this call, though it's looking into it. It also hasn't received a complaint from the passenger.
"Early reports on this ride are inaccurate," Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend says. "Based on the information we have at this time, this driver called 911 to ask for assistance with an intoxicated rider who requested an extended trip. However, we have refunded the rider's trip and reached out to the rider for additional information." In refunding the ride, Uber left a note with the passenger calling the trip an "inefficient route."
Based on screenshots of the driver's route published in Valleywag, it appears that a direct trip would have taken about 20 minutes, rather than the nearly 2 hours that this rider was apparently in the car for.
The ride was taken through UberX, Uber's lower-cost taxi service that allows almost anyone with a vehicle to sign up to be a driver. While that's a nice way to build a small taxi industry and let people earn some extra money, it also opens up a number of potential problems. In particular, UberX drivers aren't particularly well vetted: Uber's website notes that while potential drivers do receive a background check, they are not subject to "a formal interview process" — just some online training. Despite that, Uber actually adds a $1 surcharge to every UberX ride as part of a "safe rides fee" that's meant to "ensure the safest possible platform."
This is not the first time that an Uber driver has been alleged to have kidnapped a passenger. Just this year there have been reports of one driver taking a passenger on a "high-speed chase" in DC and another driver bringing an intoxicated woman to a motel and then asking her to stay there with him.
Image via Valleywag