Monday, December 12, 2016
Uber Surge Pricing and the 'Low Battery' Urban Myth
I love tracking urban myths. When I was a school I did a history project about myths in wartime (Germans eat babies, etc) and I love finding new ones. The main thing is that they are stories that people at the time want to believe. There's quite a lot of academic literature about urban myths because they tell us a lot about current fears and concerns ('I did a favour for a middle eastern man and he told me to stay out of London this Friday').
Here's one in the making.
A few months ago Uber revealed that their app can see the user's battery level, and as a result they could see some interesting data. For example, they could see that if someone was on less than 15% battery, they were more likley to request a car even if it was surge pricing, the point being that they had to get home - their phone might have died. by the time prices fell.
This has since turned into a myth that 'if you have a low battery Uber will give you surge pricing' (essentially turning the story on its head). Yes, they could theoretically do it, but they've never said that they do it. What this arguably says about Uber is that people see them as smart, but devious.
I'm looking forward to tracking this over the next few years.