Study: 1 in 6 Uber and Lyft cars may be subject to recalls

Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft have become a popular alternative to taxis and public transportation. One reason these services are so inexpensive, however, may be a lack of regulation over the drivers and the cars they drive. Unfortunately, the companies themselves are failing to ensure that every ride will be in a car that is free from safety recalls.

Consumer Reports reviewed data from Seattle and New York City and found that 1 in 6 ride-hailing vehicles had an unaddressed safety defect. With over 100 million consumers using these services, there is a lot of potential for accidents and injuries, although it’s not clear whether a vehicle with open recalls has injured a ride-hailer.

New York and Seattle were chosen, in part, because their local governments require ride-hailing drivers to register their vehicles and obtain additional licenses before working for the services. Consumer Reports hopes its analyses of these markets can provide a snapshot of how many vehicles are likely subject to recalls, but it cannot guarantee the study reflects the national market.

What it found were large numbers of unaddressed recalls often serious enough to injure or kill the driver or front seat passengers. For example, one 2011 Hyundai Sonata GLS in New York City had eight safety recalls that remained unaddressed. One of its recalls warned of potential seat-belt detachment. Another raised the alarm about a possible engine failure that could stall the car while it was in motion.

In a few cases, the recalls have “DO NOT DRIVE” warnings from the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Here are other highlights from the report:

  • Of the 93,958 vehicles reviewed, 16.2% had at least one open safety recall. This was more or less on par with all personal vehicles. Somewhat surprisingly, it was lower than the percentage among traditional taxis, limousines and livery drivers, which was 23.6%.
  • A small percentage of vehicles had a significant number of unaddressed safety recalls, including 25 vehicles in the two areas that had five or more.
  • About 1.4%, or 1,274 of the vehicles, had open recalls associated with multiple deaths, such as those involving faulty Takata airbags.
  • Although both Uber and Lyft limit drivers to vehicles not over 10 to 15 years old, Consumer Reports found there were slip ups and some older vehicles were allowed in the system.

Consumer Reports also found that Uber and Lyft mostly left it up to drivers whether to address safety recalls. It recommends that state and local governments require these drivers to do so. Even without governmental regulation, companies like Uber and Lyft should be proactive and make sure drivers address all safety recalls as a condition of associating with their companies.

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