Uber denies its app displays ‘phantom cabs’

30 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Are Uber screen cars just phantoms?.

Uber has denied that its app misleads users, after researchers from the Data & Society thinktank accused the cab hire firm of displaying “phantom cars”. The company has responded to claims that it shows users of its app “phantom cars” that don’t actually exist, saying the reason why a driver’s location may not always be accurately reflected in the passenger app is due to factors like latency, driver safety and desire to maintain a good user experience within the app.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. In an article for Vice’s Motherboard, the researchers claimed that the app shows cars in the passenger’s vicinity even when there are none there, citing testimonies from drivers and passengers.

One driver descibed a scenario where the passenger app’s map showed four drivers on the streets immediately by her pick-up location, but the estimated wait time for the closest car was 17 minutes. This is more of a visual effect, letting people know that partners are searching for fares,” the representative allegedly said. “I know this seems a misleading to you but it is meant as more of a visual effect more than an accurate location of drivers in the area. 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. “If a potential passenger opened up the app and saw no cars around, she might take another cab service.

It would be better of you to think of this as a screen saver on a computer.” “Our goal is for the number of cars and their location to be as accurate as possible in real time. 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. 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. He writes: “While surge pricing is represented as a reflection of the marketplace, our research suggests that Uber’s algorithms are also predictive: they forecast supply and demand so that drivers can be pre-positioned to meet predicted demand, but they don’t always reflect an accurate picture in real time.” 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.

This does not mean that the location is not accurate or representative, but rather that it isn’t visible to the rider until the trip is accepted, according to Uber. 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. Uber has not commented on other allegations in the Motherboard piece, such as that claim that the company’s controversial “surge pricing” does not always reflect real-time demand. 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. Zooming in on the area around Mashable’s downtown San Francisco office, for example, shows eight nearby cars while zooming in on my neighborhood 4 miles away also showed eight nearby drivers.

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. Uber also said it will occasionally hide the locations of individual drivers until a ride is requested in cases when driver safety is a concern due to “volatile situations.” Exactly how these types of situations are determined is unclear but it likely includes events like the violent anti-Uber protests that happened in Paris earlier this summer. 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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