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Study Shows Rideshare Algorithms Charge More in Non-White Neighborhoods

Published on Jun 26, 2020 at 7:54 am in News.

According to a George Washington University study, the algorithm used by ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft may discriminate against customers taking trips to or from predominantly non-white neighborhoods.

The goal of the study was to assess whether there was a racial disparity in how much passengers were being charged based on their destination. Transportation and census data from Chicago were used, which included more than 100 million rides between November 2018 and December 2019. The study noted that sixty-eight million of those rides were by a single passenger.

According to the analysis of the data, Uber and Lyft charged a higher rate for trips where the destination or pick-up point was in a neighborhood with a higher percentage of non-white and low-income residents.

The authors of the study, Aylin Caliskan and Akshat Pandrey, had this to say: “While demand and speed have the highest correlation with ride-hailing fares, analysis shows that users of ride-hailing applications in the city of Chicago may be experiencing social bias with regard to fare prices when they are picked up or dropped off in neighborhoods with a low percentage of individuals over 40 or a low percentage of individuals with a high school diploma or less.”

This is not the first study to show widespread racial and gender bias among Uber and Lyft. In 2016, a study found male and female customers with African American names were more than twice as likely to have a driver cancel a ride.

According to Lyft, the company believes the university’s study is incorrect: “This analysis is deeply flawed. The researcher acknowledges that the study was not based on actual demographic data of rideshare users. In fact, the study makes clear that speed and demand have the highest correlation with algorithmically generated fares and that individual demographic data is neither available to rideshare companies nor used in the algorithms that determine pricing. We appreciate the researchers’ attempt to study unintentional bias, but this study misses the mark.” Uber has yet to respond to the study.

In the event you believe you’ve been discriminated against by a rideshare driver, it’s important to learn about your legal rights and options. At the Rideshare Law Group, we represent victims of rideshare negligence on a nationwide basis. To learn about what actions you can take after being hurt because of a rideshare driver, contact us today.