It’s been over a year since Samantha Josephson unknowingly got into the wrong Uber car late in Columbia, South Carolina on a Friday night. The 21-year-old was found dead fourteen hours later in a wooded area around 90 miles away.
For Josephson’s parents, the pain of her death is still agonizing.
“Every time we talk about it, it’s hard,” Samantha’s dad, Seymour Josephson, said over the phone as he choked back tears. “But it’s something we have to do.”
After Josephson was murdered, her parents made it their mission to make the ride-hailing industry safer. They started a foundation called #WhatsMyName that’s geared toward raising awareness about passenger safety and pushing companies and lawmakers to create policies that make rides more secure. Part of the goal is to get people to ask “what’s my name” before getting into any car.
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Uber announced Wednesday that it’s partnering with the #WhatsMyName foundation to help in its cause. Through the partnership, Uber said, it will aim to amplify the foundation’s message using its massive international scope. Uber has more than 100 million active riders and is in more than 70 countries worldwide.
“What happened to Samantha was just horrifically tragic,” Tracey Breeden, Uber’s global head of women’s safety, said in an interview. Breeden, a former police officer who’s worked for more than a decade on preventing violence against women, said Uber had been asking “what can we do next to really increase awareness around rideshare safety?” Partnering with #WhatsMyName seemed like the right fit.
Lyft announced on Wednesday that it’s also partnering with #WhatsMyName to help educate college students about safe riding. Jennifer Brandenburger, Lyft’s director of public policy for community safety, said in a statement that, “While the tragedy involving Sami Josephson didn’t happen on the Lyft platform, we’re committed to enhancing safety across the entire rideshare industry.”
That industry has been plagued for years by safety issues. Hundreds of passengers and drivers, alleging sexual assault during rides, have come forward. Several lawsuits were brought against Uber by people who said the drivers of the service raped, kidnapped or groped them. Similar allegations have been made against Lyft, who over the past year has been charged with sexual assault by its drivers by about 60 women. Both companies also had multiple problems with individuals posing as drivers and picking up unsuspecting riders.