MIT study finds racial and gender discrimination by Uber and Lyft drivers

A recent study held by renowned American research university Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) indicates that racial and gender discrimination is commonplace from drivers for ride hailing companies like Uber and Lyft.

The study had its subjects (split evenly by race and gender) hail nearly 1,500 rides on controlled routes in Seattle and Boston, and then recorded key performance metrics.

It found that the cancellation rate for “African American sounding names” was more than twice as frequent compared to “white sounding names.” Additionally, in Seattle the researchers observed up to 35 percent longer wait times for African American passengers.

The researchers also found evidence that drivers took female passengers for longer, more expensive rides in Boston.

“Passengers have faced a history of discrimination in transportation systems,” the study points out in its summary. “Peer transportation companies such as Uber and Lyft present the opportunity to rectify long-standing discrimination or worsen it.”

The study notes that removing names from trip booking might alleviate the problem, but could introduce new issues entirely. Currently, both companies present drivers with customer names, while Lyft also provides profile pictures if uploaded by the user. Lyft has not yet expanded to Canada.

“Ridesharing apps are changing a transportation status quo that has been unequal for generations, making it easier and more affordable for people to get around,” Rachel Holt, Uber’s head of North American operations told the Toronto Star in an emailed statement.

“Discrimination has no place in society and no place on 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.”

Related: Uber to expand mapping technology in Toronto and to other Ontario cities

[source]The U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research[/source][via]Toronto Star[/via]