WASHINGTON - The trendy way to travel for the tech-savvy may be inheriting what has been a longtime problem in the taxi industry. According to a new study, some Uber and Lyft drivers are discriminating against black passengers.
Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and University of Washington recorded data from nearly 1,500 rides in Boston and Seattle and found that not only do African American passengers experience longer wait times, they are subject to higher cancellation rates from drivers.
The study found, “In Boston, we observed discrimination by Uber drivers via more frequent cancellations against passengers when they used African American-sounding names. Across all trips, the cancellation rate for African American sounding names was more than twice as frequent compared to white sounding names."
The researchers also said, “Results indicated a pattern of discrimination, which we observed in Seattle through longer waiting times for African American passengers—as much as a 35 percent increase.”
The study also found female passengers were taken on longer, more expensive routes than male passengers.
We asked a D.C. area Uber driver what he sees when he gets a request for a ride.
“All I see is the type of ride it is, where it is, where I’m picking up and the address,” said Matt Slusher. “As soon as I click ‘Accept,’ I’ll see the name. I do not see a face.”
Lyft did not have the same evidence of canceling on black passengers, but researchers said it could be because Lyft drivers see a first name and a photo before accepting the ride.
“I have never canceled a trip,” said Slusher. “The only time I cancel trips is if I have to sit and wait too long for a passenger.”
He said Uber drivers receive a lower rating for canceling too many trips.
Uber responded to the study with a statement saying:
“Discrimination has no place in society, and no place at Uber. We believe Uber is helping reduce transportation inequities across the board, but studies like this one are helpful in thinking about how we can do even more.”
Lyft spokesperson Adrian Durbin said in a statement:
"We are extremely proud of the positive impact Lyft has on communities of color. Because of Lyft, people living in underserved areas - which taxis have historically neglected - are now able to access convenient, affordable rides. And we provide this service while maintaining an inclusive and welcoming community, and do not tolerate any form of discrimination."
In response to the longer and higher priced rides for females that was found in the study, Uber noted they are rolling out their upfront fares – fixed fares that will allow riders to know how much their trip will cost before they get in the car.