Uber and rival app Lyft plan to share with each other the names of US drivers they ban from their platforms because of “serious” safety incidents, such as sexual assault.

The two firms said the programme, to be managed by a background check company, was aimed at improving industry safety.

They said other US firms could opt to participate.

Both Uber and Lyft have faced scrutiny and legal action over their handling of sexual assault and other safety issues.

In 2019, Uber said it had received nearly 6,000 reports of sexual assault in the US in the previous two years. It said problems arose in a tiny fraction of the 2.3 billion rides during that time.

It later clashed with state regulators in California, who wanted access to the reports, ultimately leading to a fine.

Lyft has delayed publication of a similar report, citing the privacy disagreement. The company is also facing lawsuits from dozens of women in the US, who say they were harmed after the firm failed to protect passengers from its drivers.

Both firms have responded to the criticism by introducing measures such as recurring background checks and new features, such as emergency buttons in their apps.

The new programme, which is only active in the US, will also allow the two firms to share information about drivers involved in certain serious incidents such as rape and non-consensual kissing, as well as non-sexual physical assaults.

Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, said the effort meant “perpetrators will no longer be able to hide or escape accountability by simply switching ridesharing platforms”.

“By putting aside competition, they are placing users first and building a safer rideshare community for all,” he said in the announcement shared by the companies on Thursday.

Lyft is active in the US and Canada.

Uber, which operates in 71 countries around the world, said the data-sharing initiative was limited to the US, with no plans to expand at this time. The firm has faced concerns over its handling of safety incidents outside the US as well.

In the UK, Uber had its London licence suspended, in part because of safety concerns. However, in September last year, Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled the firm could continue operating, saying it had improved its record despite “historical failings”.