Though rideshare apps were intended to be a more egalitarian transportation option than traditional cab services, they have a demonstrated history of bias against minority passengers before pickup. Numerous studies have established that black passengers, for instance, faced longer wait times and were subject to more frequent cancellations than white riders.
In recent years, platforms responded to reports of the bias by removing information about riders’ gender and race from the ride requests presented to drivers. Yet, a recent study shows that these adjustments have not diminished bias across the board and that black riders, riders perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, and riders who are perceived to be LGBTQ supporters are canceled on more frequently before pickup than white and perceptibly straight passengers.
“By removing the ability to see information before the drivers accepted a ride request, the hope was that all of the bias we were observing would cease to exist,” Chris Parker, an assistant professor of information technology and analytics at American University and the co-author of the study, “When Transparency Fails: Bias and Financial Incentives in Ridesharing Platforms,” told NBC News. “But after the change was instituted, we suspected that there’s still the problem of some drivers not wanting to pick up certain passengers.”