Sex crimes, theft, drug-using drivers… What’s happening in the U.S., where “ridesharing” has become the norm. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Sex crimes, theft, drug-using drivers… What’s happening in the U.S., where “ridesharing” has become the norm.

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on LINE

Prime Minister Kishida Announces Consideration of Lifting Ban on “Ride-Sharing

Prime Minister Kishida expressed his intention to study the introduction of “ride-sharing,” in which ordinary drivers use their own cars to transport people for a fee, in his policy speech at the extraordinary Diet session convened on March 23. The government is planning to allow it with limited areas and times.

In the U.S., where ridesharing has become commonplace ahead of other countries, while it has become more convenient, it has also caused various problems. People avoid using long-distance rides alone as much as possible, or share their location information with family members or partners when they ride. How will it be introduced in Japan, where people are accustomed to safety and security on a daily basis? Yoko Hirota, a writer living in Los Angeles, reports on the actual situation in Japan, as well as her own experiences.

Former Prime Minister Kan (right), Minister of Regulatory Reform Kono (left), and Prime Minister Kishida… a trio of men that one can only imagine how bad it is going to get (PHOTO: AFLO).

Already common in the U.S. in 2015

Ridesharing in the U.S. spread rapidly in ’14-’15. Uber, the largest ridesharing service provider, was named the “most valuable start-up company” in the world in 2003, with a reported $51 billion valuation at the time.

Currently, there are two ride-sharing companies operating in Los Angeles: Uber and Lyft. Most people have both apps downloaded to their smartphones, and it has become common for people to choose one over the other when using the service, depending on how inexpensive and how quickly they are picked up.

Los Angeles has a very poor public transportation system, and although trains and buses are available, very few locals use them due to poor public safety and sloppy time schedules. Therefore, before ridesharing became popular, there were only two options: private cars or cabs. Cabs were 30-40% more expensive than rideshare fares, took much longer to pick up, and were sometimes cancelled after a phone call to request dispatch. Given this background, it is quite natural that ridesharing has spread rapidly.

GO” and “DiDi,” which are well-known in Japan, are taxi-dispatch applications, while “Uber” and “Lyft” are applications that match drivers and users.

Ridesharing has also created new jobs. If you have your own car, you can work any time you want. People who work during the day but need extra income, people who are too busy raising children to get a full-time job, and students can now work during their spare time.

In addition, many of the drivers that the author has actually met have chosen this profession because they “like driving” or “enjoy talking to people. Therefore, I have the impression that they are closer to the driver than to the cab driver. When I used a ride-sharing service on my way home from LAX, I had a great conversation with the driver, and we ended up laughing and waving goodbye to each other. Many people cite these encounters as an advantage.

Dedicated “Ride-Sharing” Area Opens at LAX

In response to the spread of ridesharing, LAX opened a dedicated area for ridesharing, “LAX-it,” in Los Angeles International Airport in 1919. Around 2003, when the use of ride-sharing was rapidly spreading, ride-sharing vehicles, which are equivalent to private cars, were allowed to enter and leave the airport at both arrival and departure gates. This caused frequent traffic jams on the originally congested airport roads. Now, rideshare vehicles can enter only at the departure gate, and those who use rideshare services from the airport can take a shuttle bus that circulates through the airport to “LAX-it” and call for a car, which has eased congestion at the airport.

In addition, “ride-share boarding areas” have been set up at stadiums, concert halls, and other large facilities where crowds are expected to gather, to facilitate smooth boarding and disembarking.

LAX-it,” a dedicated ride-sharing area

3,824 reports of “sexual assault” in one year… and theft by drivers.

Although both Uber and Lyft say that they conduct background checks on drivers when they register them, there have actually been a variety of incidents.

A rideshare driver recently charged with sexual assault of a passenger was found to have a long criminal history, including past arrests for burglary and home invasion.

Fox 4 Investigates, a private investigative agency, has ordered a safety report on Uber.’ Between ’19 and ’20, there were 3,824 reports of sexual assault. This is a 38% decrease from ’17 to ’18, when there were nearly 6,000 reports of the same. Approximately 43% of sexual assault victims are passengers. However, 99.9% of all itineraries ended safely with no dangerous problems.

In other cases, drivers steal items left in the car as they are. On the Internet, a passenger wrote, “I left my iPhone in the car and called them right away from another device, but they kept ignoring me. At the last minute, I said, ‘I’ll give you $50 to return it,’ and they responded and returned my phone.

In addition, Uber and Lyft have set a goal of using only electric vehicles to reduce CO2 emissions by the year ’30, but since the vehicles used for ridesharing are private cars, the burden on drivers is extremely heavy, and there are concerns that this could lead to a shortage of drivers. However, since the vehicles used for ride-sharing are private cars, the burden on drivers is very heavy, leading to a driver shortage.

As prices rise, drivers are protesting against the low wages, saying that the percentage taken by the company is too large. Furthermore, there is a move by the government to provide benefits to these drivers as well, which will increase the burden on the company. As a result, it has been reported that the stock prices of both companies have been greatly affected.

Just two weeks ago I encountered a “marijuana-using driver”…

I myself encountered a dangerous driver when I used a rideshare service two weeks ago. Around 1 a.m., my husband and I requested a ride home from a friend’s house. However, despite receiving a notification that the car had been dispatched, it took longer than usual for the driver to pick us up. When we finally got into the car, the driver suddenly turned up the volume of the music and asked us a question.

  • Driver: “Do you have any music requests?”
  • Us: “Could you please turn down the volume of the music more than that? There’s a bass sound going on.”
  • Driver: “That’s the minimum.”
  • Us: “……”

The car clearly smelled of marijuana and the driver was in a daze. The car was already running and it was late, so we decided to use it as is. The return trip took about 45 minutes, but we were forced to listen to music so loud that the backseat windows shook throughout the ride. Fortunately, the driving was slow but not dangerous. I am currently in the process of complaining to the ride-sharing company and asking for a refund.

As you can see, there are times when a driver is recognized as a dangerous driver after the ride. In this case, it would have been possible to get off the bus when I recognized the dangerous driver, but getting off the bus halfway through the night is also dangerous in the U.S., so I chose to stay on the bus.

Uber drivers on strike in front of Uber offices in New York City, USA, on January 5, ’23.

Safety is our responsibility”… “Never” go “out” is common sense!

In the U.S., the awareness that “safety is one’s own responsibility” is deeply rooted in people’s minds. It is common sense that you should never “fall asleep” when using a long-distance rideshare service. Even if you are aware of your own personal safety, it is difficult to completely avoid dangerous drivers. It is best to learn to protect yourself in all situations, even on a personal level.

Avoid taking long rideshare rides alone at night, or share your location with your family or partner when you ride alone. Many people take care not to “expose themselves” by waiting a short distance away when requesting a ride from home, not getting off in front of their home, and avoiding statements about their family structure or workplace.

While convenient, it is essential to be aware of how to protect oneself. Even the best drivers cannot guarantee 100% safety on the road. Challenges remain to be overcome in order to popularize ridesharing in Japan, where safety and security are taken for granted.

Yoko Hirota is an editorial writer and health coach living in Los Angeles. She has been a magazine editor for over 20 years.’ She moved to the U.S. in 2003 and specializes in articles on American healthy food, exercise, and other trends that are likely to catch on in Japan.

  • Interview and text by Yoko Hirota

    Yoko Hirota is an editorial writer and health coach living in Los Angeles. She has been a magazine editor for more than 20 years and moved to the U.S. in 2015, specializing in articles on American healthy food, exercise, and other trends that are likely to catch on in Japan.

Photo Gallery4 total

Photo Selection

Check out the best photos for you.

Related Articles