A driver for the Uber ride-sharing service in Boston has been arraigned with charges of rape, assault to rape, kidnapping, and assault and battery in the Cambridge District Court.
Authorities alleged that 46-year-old suspect, Alejandro Done, picked up the victim on Dec. 6 from a residence on Tremont Street.
Once the woman entered the vehicle, Done told the victim that he needed a payment in cash for the service, even though it was a policy of the company to keep credit cards on file. Done said that he will be driving her to an ATM.
Done then drove to a place that the victim was unfamiliar with before pulling over in a secluded area. The suspect then allegedly jumped to the backseat, where the victim was sitting.
According to the office of the Middlesex County District Attorney, Done struck the woman using his hands and strangled the victim, in addition to locking the vehicle's doors to prevent her from escaping. Done also covered the victim's mouth to stifle her screams, and in the physical struggle that followed, the suspect allegedly committed sexual assault on the victim.
According to Uber, it was not Done that was the driver that the victim contacted to give her a ride.
"This is a despicable crime and our thoughts and prayers are with the victim during her recovery," said Kaitlin Durkosh, a spokesperson for Uber. Durkosh added that the company is currently working with the authorities to assist in any way possible for the investigation.
Uber said that Done was able to pass a background check before signing up as a contractor with the ride-sharing service. However, the same day, Uber immediately announced that it will be implementing new security measures.
"We owe it to all our riders, driver partners and communities around the world to examine what we can do better and then do everything we can to make more progress on safety," wrote Uber head of global safety Phillip Cardenas in a post on the company's official blog.
Among the improvements that the company promised focuses on the background checks of the drivers that sign up to work with them.
The backgrounds checks of Uber have often been criticized as several incidents have already occurred due to the deficiencies of the process. The most notable example of such is the hiring of a driver in India that has already been charged with sexual assault. The driver allegedly raped a 25-year-old woman rider, leading to the banning of the ride-sharing service in New Delhi.
Cardenas added that a global review of the company's safety policies currently underway will check where Uber should invest more for the coming years. Some initiatives mentioned include research and development on voice verification and biometrics for a better screening of drivers, improving background checks through technology and scientific analysis, building up Uber's customer service and developing advisory and training partnerships.