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In wake of Kalamazoo shooting, how and whether Uber should have local customer support




The driver rating screen in an Uber app
The driver rating screen in an Uber app
BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

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Before Jason Dalton allegedly carried out a shooting spree that left six dead on Saturday evening in Kalamazoo, Michigan, local police may have gotten at least two separate calls from people complaining about Uber driver who was all over the road.

It’s unclear at this point how law enforcement prioritized those calls or why they chose not to respond, but the end result was a seemingly random mass shooting carried out by a man who didn’t seem to have much of a reason for doing it.

The shooting also raises questions about Uber’s responsibility to provide both drivers and passengers with a safe ride. Uber is a nationwide company, but is based in San Francisco and does not have the regional support structure other major companies might have. While there are Uber Partner Support Centers in cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, it’s not clear whether those centers provide support for passengers as well as drivers.

While the customer who jumped out of Dalton’s car says he did file a complaint with Uber, the company said in a conference call yesterday that it doesn’t deactivate drivers due to complaints of erratic driving because it would be unfair not to hear the driver’s side of the story. If a passenger alleges violence, Uber will suspend the driver within minutes.

But even if Uber had deactivated Dalton, it’s unlikely that would have stopped him from continuing his rampage. So, should Uber install a panic button for U.S. passengers? Uber says the U.S.’s panic button is 911, and that they can’t and don’t want to try and replace that.

Do you think Uber should be responsible for providing more local support to ensure passenger safety or is that the job of law enforcement? What would that model look like, if it’s even possible? If it’s not, what could Uber do to be more proactive about addressing complaints involving erratic driving?

Guests:

Carolyn Said, business reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle covering the sharing economy

Siona Listokin, associate professor at George Mason University School of Public Policy

Bill Rouse, General Manager of Los Angeles Yellow Cab and President of the Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association