You know the vehicles that appear on the screen when you want a ride? Well, those are apparently intended to act as an incentive to order a ride from the service. According to the investigation, the black symbols are sometimes “phantoms” that make you think there are cars around, but according to drivers and users, that is not completely true.
Uber drivers working in the U.S have said in the past that the app often displays “phantom cars”, which are not near your location when you want to catch a ride. Seeing one close makes most believe it will come right away and brings in more money for the company.
“The presence of those virtual cars on the passenger’s screen does not necessarily reflect an accurate number of drivers who are physically present or their precise locations,” two employees of Data & Society revealed. “Instead, these phantom cars are part of a ‘visual effect’ that Uber uses to emphasize the proximity of drivers to passengers. Not surprisingly, the visual effect shows cars nearby, even when they might not actually exist.”
Is It Really a Lie?
The company has denied that the symbols are just there to make us believe that there are cars near our location. Research from Alex Rosenblat, a New York-based data researcher, who studied how the drivers working for the service used the app, says that customers are manipulated by the symbols on their screens. “If a potential passenger opened up the app and saw no cars around, she might take another cab service. But if she saw a cluster of cars seemingly milling around on the same street, she’s more likely to request a ride,” wrote Mr. Rosenblat.
“What the passenger app shows can be deceptive,” writes Mr. Rosenblat, who found that Uber drivers “across multiple forums discuss the fake cars they see on their own residential streets”.
He used Heather, an Uber driver, who once tested this. She says she once opened her passenger app to find four drivers on the streets close to her. She then opened her driver app and saw that the closest vehicle was almost 20 minutes away from her location.
Uber Says It’s No Lie
Heather then contacted Uber to ask them about it, she was told the app was pretty much a “screen saver”. “The app is simply showing there are partners on the road at the time,” she was told in an email. The company has denied that the screen is lying, saying, “This is simply not true. The cars you see in the app are the cars on the road.”
The allegation is now one of the many things Uber will have to deal with, even though no proof has yet been posted by the company that mentioned this. The ride sharing service has been fighting against regulations in many U.S cities and has been banned in other places around the world. One of them is France, and there are others like Brazil, who is thinking of banning it on two of its biggest cities.
What do you think about the study? Have you ever used the service?