NEW DELHI (AFP) – An Uber taxi driver allegedly raped a 25-year-old passenger in the Indian capital before threatening to kill her, police said Sunday, in a blow to the company’s safety-conscious image.
New Delhi special commissioner Deepak Mishra said police were hunting the driver who abandoned the taxi and fled after attacking the woman on Friday night in a secluded part of the city.
“We have registered a case of rape and have already recovered the abandoned car,” Mishra told AFP.
“The driver, who has been identified, is being traced by the police teams on the ground and we are optimistic that he will be arrested soon.”
Mishra also criticised Uber over the attack, saying early investigations showed GPS had not been installed in the taxi and mandatory police background checks were not conducted on the driver.
“Our initial investigations have revealed the shortcomings of the private cab company which didn’t have GPS installed in its cabs and the staff wasn’t verified,” he said.
US-based Uber, which emphasises safety and high-end technology, is making inroads in the Indian market including by appealing to young urban professionals.
Women in India, and Delhi in particular, are extremely safety-conscious after dark following a string of gang-rapes that sparked global shock and anger.
The incident comes just days before the second anniversary of the fatal gang-rape of a student in Delhi that unleashed outrage about attacks on women in India and inadequate efforts to keep them safe.
The December 16 attack on the 23-year-old on a moving bus sparked street protests and led to tougher laws against rapists and other sexual offenders.
In the latest incident, the female executive for a finance company dozed off in the taxi as she was returning home from dinner with friends, local media reported.
The woman has told police she woke to find the taxi parked in a secluded place where the driver assaulted and raped her, before dumping her near her home in north Delhi.
Although the driver threatened to kill her if she reported the crime to police, the woman clicked a photo of the car’s number plate before alerting authorities, an officer told the Press Trust of India news agency.
The company said it was working with police to solve the “terrible crime”, while stressing safety was “Uber’s highest priority”.
“Our thoughts are with the victim of this terrible crime and we are working with the police as they investigate,” Uber spokeswoman Evelyn Tay said in a statement.
“We work with licensed driver-partners to provide a safe transportation option, with layers of safeguards such as driver and vehicle information, and ETA-sharing to ensure there is accountability and traceability of all trips that occur on the Uber platform.”
Uber lets customers order and pay for taxis or private vehicles using a smartphone app.