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Researchers Find Bias In Transportation Network Companies Including Uber And Lyft

This shouldn’t be much of a shocker considering all the Uber horror stories we’ve shared here.

A new study conducted by researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Stanford University and the University of Washington titled “Racial and Gender Discrimination in Transportation Network Companies” found significant bias among the 1,400 or so individual cases they documented of research assistants ordering, waiting and taking rides in Seattle, WA and Boston, MA using transportation network companies (TNCs). For the most part the researchers used Uber and Lyft. The experiment observed subjects using the networks during randomly selected days and times, as well as routes and riders — both black and white — and kept performance metrics for each state of the trip.

The findings were very telling, with Seattle riders consistently finding longer waiting times — as much as a 35 percent increase– for African-American passengers.

A separate experiment in Boston found more frequent cancellations against passengers when they used African-American sounding names. Even more disconcerting, amongst all trips the cancellation rate for passengers using African American sounding names was over twice as frequent compared to the rate for passengers who used “white sounding” names.

“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.”

Researchers say the TNC’s could likely reduce the impacts of discrimination by implementing some changes; for example, not allowing drivers to see the names and photos of riders before orders are confirmed or driver accepts a ride order.

What do you think of the findings? Have you ever experienced discrimination using Uber or Lyft?



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