back to article Uber, Lyft drivers shamed for 'racial bias' by uni eggheads

Passengers who use Uber and Lyft to dial up rides are often subject to racial and gender discrimination, claim researchers. A joint study [paywalled] by Stanford, MIT, and Washington University has found that drivers for the smartphone-based car services are more likely to refuse or cancel rides if they believe the passenger …

  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Moan Moan Moan

    ...and then you take a taxi in Paris and suddenly everything else is rosy.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to the unregulated economy...

    You are just commodity.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Welcome to the unregulated economy...

      Same as the regulated economy, but there you get taxed doubly/triply/quadruply on top of it.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dis Crimi-nation

    Notice how discrimination is automatically assumed to be wrong? Even when the entity doing it is just one other human being? Like you, and me, y'know?

    Discrimination is not wrong when it's done for legitimate reasons. If it's known that a subset of society is a lot more likely to commit crimes against drivers than other subsets, how is it that that drivers are at fault for using their freedom of choice to reduce the risk? Are we to avert our eyes from the 'disparate impact' of such crime against the more law-abiding, just because some 'better-than-you' control freaks say we have to?

    Maybe they CAN use lawfare against corporations to induce a proper bent-over stance, but is that to be OUR future too? Punished for using our intelligence, god-given or otherwise?

    It's a personally insulting concept, can't really be enforced anyway, and any attempt to do so will cause much more harm than any amount of personal discrimination ever could.

    BTW, such discrimination runs thru all societies like a river, at least at the personal level. It's underhanded and unseemly for academics to single out just one (controversial) business for such detailed anal exams. Makes one suspect an ulterior motive.

    1. smartypants

      Re: Dis Crimi-nation

      "such discrimination runs thru all societies like a river, at least at the personal level."

      True... and it's something that civilisations should seek to dispel, because otherwise we end up ultimately with things like apartheid. (Presumably you would be in favour of that so you could protect yourself from bumping into someone who comes from the 'wrong' race)

      "It's underhanded and unseemly for academics to single out just one (controversial) business for such detailed anal exams. Makes one suspect an ulterior motive."

      Your own prejudice makes it hard for you to see the blindingly obvious thing that actually is going on here - which is that we live in a society where we *know* there is injustice and *know* we must expose it *wherever* we find it in case the views of people like you end up deciding how things are, and frankly, after this summer, we've had just enough of that to last a good long while.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dis Crimi-nation

        "because otherwise we end up ultimately with things like apartheid"

        But if you ignore verifiable profiling trends of which race is only one of many then you also directly reduce your ability to target crime, terrorism, etc, etc...

        1. smartypants

          Re: Dis Crimi-nation

          "But if you ignore verifiable profiling trends of which race is only one of many then you also directly reduce your ability to target crime, terrorism, etc, etc"

          I disagree. "Arrest the black just in case", is ultimately useless from a court conviction standpoint, and utterly poisonous from the point of view of trying to maintain a country where people are free to walk around free of suspicion *by default*. It has no place in the judicial process. Many of us don't want to live in a country where the price of my freedom and safety is the removal of other innocent people's freedoms.

          It's worth pointing out that today, 993 out of 1000 black people in the country are not in prison. Do we want a country where those people are to be treated as special in a bad way because of the other 7?

          Apparently, in 2016, this passes for reasonable debate.

          Conveniently, the people who employ race as a reason to 'protect themselves' never seem to bother with other selective criteria. For example, you'd be statistically far less likely to be victim of a crime if (as a punter) your taxi driver was a woman, or (as the taxi driver) you picked up only women. It always ends up being a race thing.... funny that.

          1. Sooty

            Re: Dis Crimi-nation

            "But if you ignore verifiable profiling trends of which race is only one of many then you also directly reduce your ability to target crime, terrorism, etc, etc"

            As mentioned, race is only one of many attributes that people take into view when making a first impression, and even then it's not always a primary factor. The primary factors are usually the way someone acts, walks, talks, and dresses. Unfortunately some of these do correspond with the way different ethnicities dress and act, but are not exclusive. White people walking, talking and dressing in the same way are just as likely to be discriminated against.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Dis Crimi-nation

            "It's worth pointing out that today, 993 out of 1000 black people in the country are not in prison"

            It's also worth pointing out that in the USA, 47 out of said 1,000 are in prison. Race is one criteria among many that reflects only the PROABILITY that someone will / has done something. No that's not proof, but in a world where we only have limited law enforcement resources you have to in some way target how you use them...

      2. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

        Re: Dis Crimi-nation

        "we live in a society where we *know* there is injustice and *know* we must expose it *wherever* we find it "

        Actually, I DON'T live in Saudi Arabia, so (other than boycotting their products) I'm not sure how I can make a difference there. Pay the airfare for a feminist to visit the place?

    2. William 3 Bronze badge

      Re: Dis Crimi-nation

      Apparently the left wing academics think people should be punished for not risking their lives by refusing to do pickups in the wrong area of town, all in the name of diversity and tolerance, of course.

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Dis Crimi-nation

        well, maybe if potential passengers STOP trying to look like gangstahs, i.e. "don't put the hood up for your photo", maybe they'll get rides more often...

        (just sayin', there may be more to this)

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dis Crimi-nation

      I agree with Big John, but posting anonymously because it's a dangerous view to have in these 'enlightened' times. Given that the driver refusing to accept the passenger has a real and immediate cost (literally) to not accepting a passenger, you can reasonably assume that they aren't just doing it on a whim, they're making a risk/reward judgment based on their past experiences. I feel like the free market wins here - a driver willing to take a bigger (perceived, perhaps unfairly) risk to take fares that others don't want will have more business and therefore make more money.

      On the subject of taking women on longer routes, that certainly is ridiculous, but I'm really not sure what more the providers can do. The route is displayed on your phone when you get in, and you can easily follow along as the journey progresses. If he diverts, you can challenge him (which is not easy) or just raise an objection to the journey in the app as soon as you get out (I assume they all have this feature, I'm pretty sure I've seen it). Everything is tracked, presumably including traffic conditions, and if drivers found they weren't getting paid when they took people (any people) on longer routes than necessary, they'd very quickly change their behaviour.

    4. Hollerithevo Silver badge

      Re: Dis Crimi-nation

      I hear this argument from people who have never experienced discrimination.

      Usually white guys, who are usually straight.

      Until you have been on the receiving end, over and over again, until you know it's not just a one-off but actually systemic, you can't speak with any authority.

      To assume that every non-white face = violence, robbery, other dishonesty, to assume that every female face = something to hit on, too stupid to notice overcharging, that is, to assume every person not like you is someone you can with justification treat less well than someone like you, means you are part of the problem.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dis Crimi-nation

        Assuming a persons gender and perceived race and then making massive assumptions (negative or positive) makes you the problem that needs to be addressed.

      2. bombastic bob Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Dis Crimi-nation

        "I hear this argument from people who have never experienced discrimination."

        "Usually white guys, who are usually straight."

        sorry, your ignorance is showing. there is REVERSE discrimination, too [usually in the name of 'affirmative action' or some OTHER 'policitally correct' position].

        So I'd say EVERYBODY has been discriminated against, in one way or another. Taking a 'victim mentality' and claiming "white privilege" is just ignorant.

      3. noominy.noom

        Re: Dis Crimi-nation

        @Hollerithevo

        You've stated the problem well. Better than I could have. I can only give you one up vote though.

    5. Black Betty

      Re: Dis Crimi-nation

      Actually the statistics show that the rate at which people of COMMIT crimes is pretty even when it comes to skin color/ethnicity. Where the difference lies is in the rate at which they are CONVICTED, and in the harshness of sentencing after conviction.

      There's nothing wrong with properly informed discrimination, but plenty wrong with blind (at best misinformed) prejudice.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Dis Crimi-nation

        Dude, you are attempting to spread misinformation, but nice try. I notice you offered no link to back it up, which is because there were none. I got one tho:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_crime_in_the_United_States#Robbery

        FTA: "Robberies with white victims and black offenders were more than 12 times more common than the reverse."

        I suggest you stop just accepting the trash coming from wherever you get your news.

  4. Winkypop Silver badge
    FAIL

    Unregulated service behaves in an unregulated manner

    Leaves themselves open to trouble in court.

    But, your Honour, it is my firmly held belief that.....[insert bigotry here]....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unregulated service behaves in an unregulated manner

      Like those drivers, I behave in an unregulated manner. Guess I need some good old fashioned regulatin', right? Can't be letting people go thinking for themselves, can we? They might think non-approved thoughts!

      Only the threat of legal punishment can staunch the flow of unregulated free thinking amongst the unwashed masses.

    2. William 3 Bronze badge

      Re: Unregulated service behaves in an unregulated manner

      Indeed. But it's the double standards when it gets to court that is galling and is causing more and more people to move to the far right.

      Ask a Christian Bakery to bake you a gay cake and the Christian baker gets sued if they say no.

      Ask a Muslim Baery to bake you a cake with Muhammed on, and you get sued for "hate crimes" for asking.

      See the issue.

      1. smartypants

        Re: Unregulated service behaves in an unregulated manner

        Difference is obvious.

        The Muhammed example is picking a subject whose only purpose is to wind up people of a particular religion. The guy wedding cake is something guests have at a wedding to celebrate something.

        The difference in motive couldn't be clearer. One is has hate as a motive, the other doesn't.

        1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: Unregulated service behaves in an unregulated manner

          The motive isn't material for the discrimination case. The business can quite legally say "I refuse to serve you because you're just winding me up". They can't say "I refuse to serve you because what you want is against my religion"

          1. TheVogon Silver badge

            Re: Unregulated service behaves in an unregulated manner

            They can't say "I refuse to serve you because what you want is against my religion"

            So will all Muslim shops and restaurants be forced to serve alcohol and bacon sandwiches?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Unregulated service behaves in an unregulated manner

          "The Muhammed example is picking a subject whose only purpose is to wind up people of a particular religion. The gay wedding cake is something guests have at a wedding to celebrate something."

          SP, you left out the Christian baker aspect entirely. How come? Didn't fit your narrative? Do you not see the similarity between offending a Muslim and offending a Christian? Do you have something against Christians, perhaps?

          1. smartypants

            Re: Unregulated service behaves in an unregulated manner

            There's nothing in the bible that prohibits the making of gay cakes. That cannot be said of the depiction of Mohammed in Islam.

            Personally, I think both religions are stuffed with idiocy, but in the first case you have people who have decided for *themselves* that something which is NOT prohibited (the making of cakes for homos) is somehow against their religion. In the latter, there is no debate. Pictures of the dark ages warlord is utterly against the religion, no argument.

            Either way, one thing you can say about religion is that it is a force for division. Ideally we wouldn't have them, but asking people to be reasonable is hard when it's baked into kids from an early age... and just try breaking that circle without tears.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              u

              "There's nothing in the bible that prohibits the making of gay cakes. That cannot be said of the depiction of Mohammed in Islam."

              Sure it can. Where did you get the idea that depictions of Muhammed are banned in the Quran? What sura is it in? And please don't start mentioning Hadiths, as they are external to the Quran and therefore can't be compared to the Bible like the Quran can.

              Wikipedia does not agree with you, BTW.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Unregulated service behaves in an unregulated manner

              "That cannot be said of the depiction of Mohammed in Islam."

              FYI - there are plenty of historical depictions of him on old Islamic buildings, etc!

  5. JohnMurray

    If it's anything like here, I'll bet drunk female passengers have a queue of drivers.......

  6. ratfox Silver badge

    I always thought the incentives of taxi drivers were skewed. The longer the ride, the more they get paid.

    Now, with technology, this can finally be fixed: given a trip and traffic condition, Uber can set in advance what is the price of the ride. You could even subtract a bit of it takes too long!

  7. William 3 Bronze badge

    Academics and left wing agenda.

    Could it be that despite the protests of a certain sector of academics, that the people on the ground know they are more likely to be attacked by African Americans than any other ethnic group. The crime statistics bear this out. But then, academics would claim those are the result of racism. But then you ask them about black on black crime, and they still claim this is the result of racism. WTF?!

    It's all very well left wing academics screaming "racist" at people, but who cares about someone sat in an ivory tower when it's your hide on the line.

    If you have a choice of not picking up African Americans from a certain neighbourhood because of the reputation they have and living to be called a racist, or saying "OMG, I can't be seen to be a racist to the left wing snowflakes" and getting robbed.

    Guess what normal people are going to choose.

    You can downvote, have a tantrum, whatever you like, my little precious snowflake darlings. It's just demonstrating you don't live in the real world if you expect people to endanger their lives just to appease you sense of self righteousness.

    Besides, the left have destroyed the meaning of the word "racist", they have used it that much to describe "racist" events that only occur in their imagination.

    It's not "racist" to not increase your chances of getting robbed. It's self preservation.

    What next, ordering single women to walk through the wrong neighbour at night, or scream "racist" at them if they don't?

    Idiots.

  8. Pinballdave

    It's just newbies who don't know any better.

    When a new driver starts out in the cab business, they are alone in their car and tend to feel vulnerable. They don't have any clue about who they're going to pick up, so if they have any doubts about a particular area of town, or if they have any worries about any racial stereotypes, then they naturally try to avoid those places and people.

    As they get more experienced and realise that their prejudices are completely unfounded, they are more comfortable picking up in these places, and won't discriminate any more.

    So the Ubers and Lyfts with the inexperienced drivers will come out showing more of a bias towards discrimination than the apps using the more experienced licensed taxi drivers.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    we theorize that at least some drivers for both UberX and Lyft discriminate

    stunning results! Some men commit rape. Some women flash their boobs while driving. Some rodents chew through hi-speed internet cables.

    Stay tuned for more research on Trump, bankers and the effects of rapidly descending water on the contents of an average toilet.

  10. Korev Silver badge

    Pickup location

    One way that might help to distinguish racism from "self-preservation" would be to normalise for pickup/dropoff location, eg pickups from an airport would be safer for the driver than a sink estate. Any idea of they looked at that in the study?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its also the destination

    I used to live in South Tottenham, a rather insalubrious area of London.

    From an evening out in the City or West End it was almost impossible to get a (licensed, black) cab home - as soon as I gave my destination they would refuse.

    I took to saying I wanted a cab to Stamford Hill and then directing them through the backstreets to my flat.

    More than one driver hurled abuse at me when he realised where we were. I am white as were many, but not all, of the abusive cab drivers.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bias

    I'm often wary of studies such as this, as they are often biased to produce the results they were looking for in the first place.

    We all judge people based on our personal experiences, someone's appearance, the way they dress, speak or act. But that doesn't automatically make them racially motivated.

  13. The Nazz Silver badge

    Think what you will ....

    But i'd share a ride with the blonde one any day.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, they are taxi services.

  15. David Nash Silver badge

    Name and Photos?

    Why do Uber need this information to provide you with a ride?

    If I get a cab in the street or visit or call the taxi office, they don't need this.

    1. Mike Moyle Silver badge

      Re: Name and Photos?

      Not sure if this scales generally but, in my neck of the woods, there are "taxi" and "livery" licenses, each with different regulations.

      Taxis can pick up anyone who flags them down or can hang around airports, hotels, etc., to pick up any business that they can, but they must be marked with signage that clearly identifies them as taxis.

      Livery services can have unmarked vehicles (think airport limo services), but are ONLY allowed to pick up pre-arranged fares.

      So, Uber, Lyft, et al are more closely related to livery services that I've used where, when picking me up at the train station, have asked for a description so their driver can recognize me, since I won't be able to identify the car. I suppose that they could have a text box where you could type in a description, but may have decided that it was more likely that they could get some drunk leaving the bar @ 2:00 AM to take a selfie than type in an intelligible description. That and the name can also help when more than one person pings the service from the same bar at closing time.

      I may have other issues with the UberLyfts, but those methods of identifying the fare aren't among them.

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