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After the Airbnb incident, now a new survey shows racial discrimination by ride-hailing startups such as Uber and Lyft. According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, black people have to wait longer for rides in Seattle. The study was conducted in Seattle and Boston by looking at results of nearly 1500 rides hailed through Uber, Lyft and Flywheel. The study has been co-authored by researchers from MIT, Stanford University, and the University of Washington.
According to the study, there seems to be some evidence that proves it takes longer for drivers to accept a trip request from black people. However, among these taxi services, Uber appeared to take statistically significant longer for UberX, according to study. The report claims that Uber drivers were more than twice as likely to cancel the ride for people with black-sounding name than a white sounding name.
“The patterns of discrimination were quite clear and consistent in both cities – and one can only assume it’s happening all across the country in other markets,” said Christopher R Knittel, one of the study’s authors and a professor at the MIT Sloan School of management. “The study has found major areas of racial discrimination within this new industry. It’s quite concerning.”
“To be clear, when an Uber driver receives a ride request, they don’t see the photo of the passenger — just the name of the rider once they accept it. With Lyft, drivers see the name and photo of the person before they accept the ride. So, Uber drivers can discriminate by cancelling rides while Lyft drivers can discriminate by choosing to not accept the trip,” Techcrunch points out.
“Though completely eliminating discrimination is likely impossible, there are steps transportation network companies (TNCs) can voluntarily take to minimise service bias against minorities,” said Don MacKenzie, another of the study’s authors and an assistant professor within the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington. “We hope TNC companies take positive steps to address these problems.”
The study also claims that some drivers in Boston took female passengers for longer and more expensive rides by taking extremely long routes or even driving through the same intersection multiple times. Don MacKenzie, a University of Washington professor who co-authored the study, also also put out another report that claims Uber’s service is faster in low income Seattle neighborhoods.