Some of the cars on Uber’s maps don’t really exist

30 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Are Uber screen cars just phantoms?.

Researchers analysed the firm’s app, and fund that the cars shown often didn’t tally up with the expected times – forcing Uber to admit the maps don’t always show the ‘real’ cars nearby.US researcher Alex Rosenblat alleges that the company uses ‘phantom’ cars to give customers a false sense of the number of drivers available at any one location. But the little black on-screen symbols are sometimes “phantoms” that bear little relation to actual Uber drivers in the vicinity, an investigation into the company has alleged. As part of a project for Microsoft FUSE Labs, Rosenblat interviewed US-based drivers, who say that there are discrepancies between the driver and the passenger version of the app. “The app’s map showed four drivers on the streets immediately by her pick-up location.

Research from Alex Rosenblat, a New York-based data researcher who studied how Uber drivers interact with the Uber app, alleges that Uber customers are manipulated by the symbols on their screens. ‘But if she saw a cluster of cars seemingly milling around on the same street, she’s more likely to request a ride,’ wrote Mr Rosenblat, whose research – funded by Microsoft – is published on Vice magazine’s Motherboard blog. ‘What the passenger app shows can be deceptive,’ writes Mr Rosenblat, who found that Uber drivers ‘across multiple forums discuss the fake cars they see on their own residential streets’. But as an Uber representative told Co.Design this week, these are white lies the company its customers, both so that you enjoy using the app, and you can’t attack their drivers. However, the allegation that the app displays a “visual representation” rather than the real-time position of cars in the proximity was categorically denied by Uber’s UK office.

In response to questions around the app’s accuracy, one Uber staff member reportedly told Heather that driver locations are meant to be more of a ‘screen saver.’ “This is not a representation of the exact numbers of drivers or their location. The magnitude of surge can vary across a given region. ‘Also, to protect the safety of drivers, in some volatile situations, the app doesn’t show the specific location of individual cars until the ride is requested.’ Venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson recently recounted his conversation with Kalanick at the 17th annual Top 10 Tech Trends dinner in San Jose, California, Forbes reported. Alex Rosenblat and Luke Stark, researchers studying Uber’s user interaction, discovered that the map Uber shows passengers of its available local drivers isn’t very accurate/may be intentionally misleading.

He suggested that Uber’s CEO believes self-driving cars are the future, saying Kalanick told him that if Tesla’s cars are autonomous by 2020, he would buy all 500,000 that are expected to be produced. ‘It would be like an elevator. They used to have elevator operators, and then we developed some simple circuitry to have elevators just automatically come to the floor that you’re at … the car is going to be just like that,’ he told NVidia’s CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang at the company’s annual developers conference in March.

When Heather questioned Uber about the discrepancy, she was told the app merely displayed a “screen saver”. “The app is simply showing there are partners on the road at the time,” a company representative told her in an email. Tesla is among many firms that have added self-driving features to its cars and joins the likes of BMW, Volvo and Google, which are developing cars that could drive themselves completely. Tesla’s Model S features an ‘autopilot’ mode, which uses sensors to stop drivers drifting accidently between motorway lanes, as well as moderate speed and brake when necessary.

Positioning vehicles by GPS very quickly is tricky business, so while the company may know there are X vehicles in your generalized area, it might need to deploy more stock animations of vehicles cruising down city streets in lieu of providing exact coordinates for the cars in real time to keep the experience feeling smooth and speedy. Verified email addresses: All users on Independent Media news sites are now required to have a verified email address before being allowed to comment on articles. It’s the sort of fake UI trick that’s actually en vogue across apps, and here it seems justified, given the violent ways Uber drivers can be targeted by malicious parties (I myself heard about an Uber car being spit on by a passing taxi driver this week.) It’s easy to imagine how a perfectly accurate map of every Uber driver in the area could create a dangerous situation for these innocent contractors. Truth be told, no customer really needs to know exactly where those Uber cars are; they just need to know that some of them are around and available for work. The cars you see in the app are the cars on the road.” The allegation is now one of the many things Uber will have to deal with, even though no proof has yet been posted by the company that mentioned this.

In one of many driver forum threads about the “ghost cars,” a driver said that Uber claimed it was just a technical issue: This came up in our weekly virtual Uber webinar. CREEPY And now that this research corroborates suspicions that Uber is manipulating its passenger maps to make it look like there are more drivers, more Uber drivers are noticing: I’ve asked Uber for clarification on its map/screen saver.

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