STATEWIDE — Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft have been trying to eliminate discrimination between their drivers and riders.
Research from Indiana University Kelley School of Business found that when a driver on a ridesharing platform could see information like a rider’s gender and race from the ride request, they were more prone to not accept the request if that person was from an underrepresented minority.
When that was removed and the person’s picture was placed after the driver already accepted the ride platforms saw a spike in cancellations.
“One side of the platform shifted their discriminatory behavior from one side to the other,” said Jeorge Mejia, assistant professor of operations, decisions and technologies at IU Kelley School of Business. “But now that it’s in a later stage no one knows about it.”
He said cancellations are only something the platform can see, and because of that no one knows if the community of drivers or the platforms are getting better when it comes to reducing discrimination.
His suggestion? Make the cancellations visible to riders.
“That would tell drivers and riders what their cancellations rates are, who they are canceling, and to try to flag drivers that appear to be canceling based on some discriminatory behavior.”
Mejia said some of the apps have tags or badges. For example, the driver can have a badge that tells the rider if they keep their car clean. He said ridesharing platforms can do something similar for riders to view if the driver has canceled and why.
He also says that ridesharing platforms have options in the app to say if you feel like you’re in danger, but the options don’t always include racial discrimination.
“We’d like to see these platforms take that a little bit more seriously, and be able to let the riders know whether they were comfortable or uncomfortable with the service they received.”
He said it can also apply to riders if the rider is participating in discriminatory behavior. He said they want a way to capture that for these platforms, so they can know the status of ridesharing, and how it’s improving to help underrepresented minorities.
“There needs to be some protection that helps everybody get a ride when they need it.”