Uber and Lyft are responding to racial bias and discrimination claims that they each charge riders more for travel to and from non-white areas.
After analyzing more than 100 million trips taken in Chicago between November 2018 and December 2019, Aylin Caliskan and Akshat Pandey at The George Washington University in Washington DC, made the initial discovery.
The two researchers saw that both companies charged a higher price per mile if the pick-up and drop-off points sat in neighborhoods with a higher population of ethnic minority residents, a lower median house price, and/or a lower average educational attainment.
A Lyft spokesperson rebuts, “We recognize that systemic biases are deeply rooted in society, and appreciate studies like this that look to understand where technology can unintentionally discriminate. There are many factors that go into pricing – time of day, trip purposes, and more – and it doesn’t appear that this study takes these into account. We are eager to review the full results when they are published to help us continue to prioritize equity in our technology.”
Meanwhile, one for Uber states, “Uber does not condone discrimination on our platform in any form, whether through algorithms or decisions made by our users. We commend studies that try to better understand the impact of dynamic pricing so as to better serve communities more equitably. It’s important not to equate correlation for causation and there may be a number of relevant factors that weren’t taken into account for this analysis, such as correlations with land-use/neighborhood patterns, trip purposes, time of day, and other effects.”