Drivers for Uber Technologies Inc. in Boston canceled rides for men with black-sounding names more than twice as often as for other men. Black people in Seattle using Uber and Lyft Inc. faced notably longer wait times to get paired with drivers than white customers. The findings come from a study published on Monday by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and the University of Washington.
Over the past few years, various writers have reported that transportation network companies (TNCs, aka ride-sourcing platforms typified by Uber and Lyft) help to mitigate this discrimination, making it easier for black travelers to get a ride. Also, female passengers were taken on longer, more expensive routes than male passengers.
In Seattle, the experiment revealed that African Americans waited up to 35 percent longer for a ride than their white peers. In Boston, the experiment revealed “more frequent cancellations against passengers when they used African American-sounding names,” the researchers said. Riders were dropped twice as often when they used African-American sounding names, compared to when the same people used white-sounding names.
In the case of ride-hailing apps, researchers similarly believe that names and photos are an issue. Such information gives drivers the means to discriminate against prospective riders. Uber doesn’t show customer photos to drivers. Lyft does, but passengers aren’t required to provide a headshot. Both San Francisco-based companies give riders’ names to their drivers.