PHOENIX (KSAZ) - Uber was front and center at a town hall event in Phoenix Monday that had nothing to do with transportation.
The topic: sexual assault and what society can do to prevent it. Uber says its taking a strong stand to raise awareness about the problem of sexual assault, and wants to be a part of the solution to a growing problem that has marred the ride-sharing company.
One year ago, two women filed lawsuits after they say they were assaulted by Uber drivers, and the company doesn't do enough to prevent assaults. Hit with a multimillion dollar lawsuit last year over alleged sexual assaults by two Uber drivers, the ride-sharing company is launching several new safety features for riders.
New functions include the the "SOS' or "911" button, rolling background checks for drivers, and a share feature that allows friends to track trips.
Uber officials say the company is commited to raising awareness about the problem of sexual assault.
"This is a global epidemic this affects all forms of transportation, and our community is not immune and we thought instead of staying in the corner, we need to be a part of the solution," said Tracey Breeden with Uber.
"It is one of those topics that is very taboo," said Allie Bones with the Arizona Coalition To End Sexual & Domestic Violence. "People don't want to talk about it. It brings a lot of discomfort, and we want to raise the volume and get people talking."
Uber says changes are aimed at everyone's safety.
"Not just for the riders, but for the drivers too," said Ebony Tucker with the National Alliance To End Sexual Violence. "I think not just male drivers, but lot of new female drivers on the app and making things safer for them is also a priority."
Billiejoy Carson is a rape survivor. She was sexually assaulted in 2006, and says she welcomes companies to the discussion.
"We have Uber and other companies come along and say you are no longer invisible," said Carson. "We hear you. We see you, and we know the pain, and we want to help."
Uber plans to have 50 of these events across the country this summer. They will team up with local groups and talk about the problem of sexual violence and the solution. In the meantime, they encourage riders to go to their website and find out more about the new safety features.