Uber, Lyft respond to accusations of discrimination on ride-hailing platforms

SAN FRANCISCO >> Two months after a report found African-American passengers were subjected to bias on ride-hailing platforms, Uber and Lyft say they are taking steps to address those concerns.

Pressed by a U.S. senator to explain how they prevent their drivers from discriminating against minority passengers, both ride-hailing companies said they have strong anti-bias policies in place — which they recently reiterated to drivers — and promised to look into doing more.

“While no single technology can eliminate bias in society, we always strive toward a better experience for all of our customers,” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a letter to Democratic Sen. Al Franken from Minnesota. “In light of that goal, and the survey’s findings, we are committed to examining any root issues and possible product mitigations.”

The news highlights a tricky issue faced by sharing-economy companies, which try to prevent racism on their platforms without taking full responsibility for their users’ actions. Airbnb earlier this year unveiled new anti-discrimination measures after an outpouring of complaints from guests who said they were denied a place to stay based on their race or gender identity.

Franken wrote letters to Uber and Lyft in early November after a study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research found African-American passengers in Seattle and Boston waited longer to get rides and were more likely to have their trips canceled. The senator asked the…

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