Twitter seems full of the accusation that Uber deliberately made money off the London terror attack. There have been many fair accusations leveled at Uber over the years. This one is not one of them. I am an Uber driver in Dallas Fort Worth and having read their response and the accusation details I think it’s false and I want to explain why.
Uber has an algorithm that determines the prices people pay for a ride. The more people there are for each active Uber driver in an area the higher the pricing is. This does 2 things:
1: It encourages drivers nearby to move to the area and provide rides.
2: It encourages passengers to wait a few minutes or walk a few blocks for a lower fee.
This is automatic. This is crucial to understand. When a terrorist attack immediately occurs Uber has no way of knowing that it happened. News begins to go out over twitter, websites and Facebook. It takes a few minutes. During that time there is a surplus, or surge, of people requesting Uber rides as they are attempting to quickly leave an area they consider dangerous. Uber does not know that there has been an attack in such cases. All its algorithm detects is a surge of requests. There is no man at a switch saying, “Okay, this area let’s increase prices now.” It’s all computed and for the most part it works to meet its desired end.
Obviously, in the case of a terror attack things are different. Uber catches flack because of the surge prices, but it can’t control that pricing in the moment because it doesn’t know what’s going on. What matters most is what they do ONCE they know what is going on.
Metro news posted a story this morning that shows Uber responded correctly and is reimbursing everyone who paid for a ride in the wake of London’s terror attack. They also turned off the surge pricing as soon as they knew what was going on.
It’s impossible for an algorithm to detect a terrorist attack.
What’s more the same article goes on to explain that Uber sent messages to its drivers to ask them to help people get home. Despite the anger, all in all what has Uber actually done?
Firstly they sent drivers to the area to help out.
Secondly they have now made sure no one paid for any rides they took.
The fact they had to do so retroactively is due to their algorithm and the way Uber usually works. I do not fault them for this. I don’t see a way for an algorithm to solve this.