Consumer Reports study shows ride share companies do little to address open recalls

One in 6 Uber, Lyft cars have open safety recalls

(Uber via CNN)

NEWS – Each day, over 14 million people order from the ride-sharing sevice, Uber to get to work, the airport and everywhere else in between. Around 400,000 of those rides come from New York City alone, surpassing city-goers' usage of the traditional yellow-taxi for the first time in 2017. However, one in six of these New York Hondas, Toyotas and Chevy's have an open safety recall ranging from minuscule issues like seat belt detachment to more dangerous concerns such as engine failure.

Earlier this year Consumer Reports reviewed the safety records for over 94,000 vehicles registered to Uber and Lyft—a competing ride-sharing company—in both New York City and King County, Wash, two of the most populous ride-sharing hubs. In both of these areas, drivers—by law—are required to registed vehicles and acquire an additional license in order to work for ride-sharing companies.

The records showed an inordinate amount of problems with the potential to both injure and kill the driver and front-seat passenger. Unresolved defects such as fatal Takata airbags, engines that lose power and even vehicles likely to catch fire were among the most alarming safety concerns found in the Consumer Reports analysis. In a 2011 Sonata open recall notice, officials with the company warned "Engine failure would result in a vehicle stall, increasing the risk of a crash."

William Wallace, Consumer Reports safety policy advocate suggests Uber and Lyft are jeopardizing their patron's trust by ignoring these safety concerns.

"Uber's website says people can 'ride with confidence,' while Lyft promises 'peace of mind,' yet both companies fail to ensure that ride-share cars are free from safety defects that could put passengers at risk," Wallace said.

Although one and six open safety recalls is about the same for all vehicles on the road, Consumer Reports suggested "stronger safety recall laws are needed, especially as Uber and Lyft work to grow their business in the coming years and as other smaller players enter the industry." 

In New York City, cabs must pass three inspections every year in order to remain on the open road. Yet, like Uber and Lyft, there is no investigation for open safety recalls. 

“We’ve been checking for open recalls, but administratively and not as a part of the vehicle inspection process,” said Fromberg, the deputy commissioner for public affairs at the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Because both Uber and Lyft are billion-dollar valuations and captains of technology, consumer advocates like Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, believe the companies could do more to protect the safety of their passanger by using VIN to identify and prohibit vehicles with open recalls from driving the roads.

"Uber and Lyft have the ability to have zero recalled cars on their platforms at the push of a button,” Levine said. “They both claim to be technology companies yet refuse to use that technology to take this obvious step to decrease the danger from unrepaired recalls on their drivers and customers."

In response to the report by Consumer Reports, Uber and Lyft offficials assured they'd "taken a number of steps to address unfixed recalls in vehicles on their platforms."

Uber officials specifically said "[it] encourages and reminds drivers to get recalls fixed, and it identifies and blocks vehicles on its platform that have some of the most dangerous open recalls, ones with 'DO NOT DRIVE' warnings from the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration."

However, Wlliam Wallace believes that this is not enough, as these warnings only make up a fraction of automobiles on the road with overlooked open recalls. 

"Uber, Lyft, taxi companies, and anyone offering for-hire rides should check cars for open recalls and ban any with unrepaired safety defects from picking up passengers," Wallace said. "If they won't do so, states and local governments should make them."