Discrimination and racial-profiling based on skin color and ethnic-appearance is unfortunately part of the world we live in. While we’ve come a long way enforcing equality throughout history, discrimination is still very much a real and sensitive issue. On the same token, living in a digital world means that we’re exposed to so much information up front, and it’s easier than ever to “judge a book by its cover”, using the primal information to make assumptions right off the bat.
It’s no secret that the sharing economy has taken the world by storm, transforming and revolutionizing the way we travel and go about our daily lives. Ride share apps such as Uber and Lyft offer a convenient, seamless, and efficient way to get a ride using your fingertips in about 5 minutes or less.
While offering streamlined improvements to transportation, it appears that a noticeable trend has come to light: the rise of ride cancellations by drivers (and I’m sure vice-versa), based on the initial profile information displayed (name and photo) once a requested-ride is accepted.While obviously unrelated, I’ve had my fair share of cancellations from Uber drivers whenever I request a ride that starts in New Jersey and ends New York City, and it usually looks like this:
I open the door and the driver hits the “starts ride” button (revealing my destination). The driver will refuse to drive me. Since car-service laws and licensing differ between the two states, drivers are prohibited from picking up a passenger for a ride back to New Jersey. While I understand the driver’s point of view, and although I do not believe the cancellation was due to my ethnicity or gender, it is super frustrating and disruptive to be cancelled on in general.
According to a recent study, reports show a higher number of cancellations involving passengers of certain races and ethnicities. Specifically,
- Passengers with black-sounding or ethnic names experience twice as high number of cancellations (1 out of 10 vs. 1 out of 20) than those who are white or have white-sounding names.
- Uber users who were black or had black-sounding names had about a 30% longer wait time than those who were white or had white-sounding names.
Uber and Lyft both emphasize that they do not tolerate any kind of discriminatory treatment what-so-ever, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
An important aspect to note is that taxi drivers are able to pass up hails alongside the road without consequence if they so choose.
Another thing to point out is because of ride-share apps, people living in underserved areas (which may be areas that taxis have historically avoided) are now able to access convenient, affordable rides, so drivers may believe they have the same rights in place that taxi drivers do.
Of course, at the end of the day, drivers have a right to a safe work environment (aka their personal vehicle), but passing judgements on someone because of their name or photo is discriminatory and ignorant.
As an attempt to keep things fair, frequent passenger cancellations rarely go unnoticed. Uber and Lyft drivers are given “marks” for any cancellation, which could affect their rating and ability to drive for the respective companies.
Speaking of ratings, I also wonder what the correlation between gender/ethnic-appearnace/race and a user’s rating is. The Uber rating system is funny. I recently blogged “Does Your Uber Rating Go Down Because You Don’t Tip“, which brought in tons of comments. There’s certainly a connection between a higher rating and a tip. I can’t help but to wonder if racial profiling affects a rating.
Have you had a ride share experience that made you feel discriminated against? What are your overall thoughts?