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Uber users with low phone batteries more likely to accept surge pricing (cbc.ca)
194 points by dgudkov on May 21, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 232 comments

Right now, even with surge, they seem to be a bit cheaper than the normal city taxi but I would bet that as soon as there will be no more competition they will raise the price AND still do price surge. In the end, we will pay more than we used to.

Uber seem to be always on the edge between aggressive profit and shady business.

EDIT: Don't think by my comment that I meant the taxis are better. I was just saying that right now, this is a great deal in most cities where Uber does offer their services but seeing how hungry they are for max profit, I doubt this will last and eventually we will realize that a broken system was replaced by another broken one.

Many years ago, when I shared my New York apartment with others, a relationship developed between me and my roommate. He is a Brown -educated architect/designer. I, at the time, was an entry-level analyst. From time to time, but at least a few times a week, I'd have to walk to the avenue with him to hail a cab. Because he was black.

I'm not wedded to Uber out of principle, but I'm staunchly against our taxi establishment for it.

I'm a black man who lives in Chicago, and rarely have trouble getting a cab, dodged by maybe 1 in 10. In an Uber world where the cab companies have been driven out of business, and captured city governments allow taxi services to regulate themselves (like Uber and Lyft are asking for), people who don't have smartphones might as well start walking now. Or they can call the fly by night unregulated services that will operate in their neighborhoods by phone, and have the equivalent of surge pricing 24h a day. Or hail unmarked gypsy cabs and maybe end up dead.

I've been black all over America, often not hardly middle-class, the [edit: taxi] situation is not that dire in the 21st century, and Uber are not civil rights workers - you still have to find one that will go where you live.

edit: Not that I don't believe that your neighborhood was particularly racist, but I'll put our Chicago racists against anyone else's racists. I think the largely immigrant workforce driving taxis (especially Nigerians) are more likely to pick me up out of affinity than one might think.

You think uber of all companies would have stood up for equal rights back then? They don't even follow the law now, what makes you think they'd have done the right thing then?

Uber bans tipping. It collects the same amount of money regardless of who the passenger is. An Uber driver has no reason to use blunt heuristics (such as skin color) to try to visually identify fares who have more money.

Well, that sucks.

Sounds like Uber is letting its drivers make up their own rules to continue the fiction that its drivers are "independent contractors". If they keep doing that they'll be as unaccountable for customer service as the average taxi dispatcher.

I really doubt tipping is the primary reason.

Where i live, we're not used to tipping, is that really a big thing considered by taxi drivers when picking someone? Because we don't have tipping and the racist drivers acts the same.

But the laws that they don't follow have very little to do with doing the right thing. As far as I'm concerned, Americans have a patriotic obligation to disobey corrupt laws like government-sanctioned taxi medallion monopolies. Those laws are no different than handing out tickets for doing 56 MPH in the middle of the desert... which also would still be the case if drivers hadn't protested the law by rendering it unenforceable.

Whether Uber would have behaved more ethically than taxi companies with regard to racial bias, I don't know. An Uber driver has no idea what the race of his/her next client is. It would require some genuinely evil behavior on Uber's part just to support racial bias, much less carry it out.

There are cases of Uber drivers not carrying passengers who have a fold-up wheelchair.

Then you have the whole "they aren't really employees" thing.

They (and Lyft et-al) all claim to be "empowering the sharing economy" and call themselves "ride sharing". Ride sharing is if I'm going to the shops, and offer someone else a ride to go there too.

Driving around in my private car and picking up people who want to go places, with exactly fuck all regulation, is just being an illegal taxi, which brings me to your "patriotic" argument.

> Americans have a patriotic obligation to disobey corrupt laws

So, any law that any american thinks is corrupt, they have a duty to break? Or, are you the arbiter of what's corrupt and what isn't?

> Those laws are no different than handing out tickets for doing 56 MPH in the middle of the desert

The difference is, if you break that law, you're probably only affecting yourself, or the people you know in your car.

Uber & Lyft together spent 8 million fucking dollars, campaigning for the right to self-regulate themselves, because they think a fingerprint background check is too onerous.

So sure, the medallion system might be fucked. But on the plus side, the taxi industry is actually regulated and follows the laws that are put in place to protect the fucking customers.

US in general have been more liberal on federal level and more racist on a more local level (especially in Souther state). Take civil rights act of 1875 as an example. So, a bigger company, working on a federal level in almost all the states would certainly be less prone to racism than a small cab operation run by a couple of guys from a shady garage.

For what it's worth, here are the prices of my last few uber rides:

These prices are so low that it would be more expensive to take public transit, let alone a taxi. The trips were pretty far, too.

It's obvious that this can't last, but it's pretty great for the moment.

EDIT: A few clarifications: These were in Chicago, and I haven't omitted any rides from this sample. Those really are the last 9 UberPool rides.

The reason it's so cheap is because Uber keeps carpet bombing my phone with 50% and 75% off promo deals. I don't know why. The two types of deals are "Your next 5 rides are 50% off" and "All rides between 4pm and 7pm are 75% off."

Here are my last few uber rides

  $ 7.68
Some were far, some not, obviously. They are spread over a few months, obviously, given the price of a typical uber, I am not prone to using it often. It does still beat a taxi, though.

Just balancing out what seems to be a biased sample.

I think I can beat you here.







The last two were from SFO to Palo Alto. In all honesty $50 for a 50 minute drive isn't that bad, but I didn't pay for it either.

You might want to check out Lyft. Been using their 'Line Ride' product as it's currently 50% off (at least in Bay Area).

If their growth team wants to throw VC money our way to keep me on board, why not? Recently commuting from Palo Alto to Mountain View pretty regularly and paying around $7/$8. PS Not affiliated, just a happy user.

Not to mention that competition between Uber and Lyft will benefit all passengers.

When you have just two companies competing in a space, that's not true competition; that's a cartel.

"cartel (n): an association of manufacturers or suppliers with the purpose of maintaining prices at a high level and restricting competition."

Having two competitors doesn't necessarily create a cartel. Are you trying to argue that Uber and Lyft are working together to maintain prices at a higher level?

I'm saying that only two participants in a space does not typically yield the benefits of true competition.

The stronger may use competitive pricing in the short term to weaken the other, driving it to withdraw from the market or be acquired, but this hardly provides long-term benefits to the consumer like true competition would.

For example, note the Office Depot / Officemax / Staples relationship. Though competitors, they never really did compete on price on everyday products (and in fact often charged the exact same price for common items -- a price much higher than, say, mail- and internet-order sources such as Amazon), hence the ability to advertise local price-matching without genuine risk to profit.

The result? Three became two, and two are becoming one, resulting in no competition between them at all. The Uber / Sidecar / Lyft relationship is tracking very similarly.

Can you name any retail space with only two players of significance that has not ended up having the same effect on consumers as a cartel? I honestly can't think of one.

The Cellular One (now AT&T) / GTE Mobilnet (now Verizon) relationship is another example of this behavior. Prices of entry and of usage stayed high until additional, independent competing networks (e.g. T-Mobile, Sprint/WiMax) entered the space.

Barriers to entry are high for a mobile network, but probably pretty low for a ridesharing app. If Uber and Lyft raised their fares massively, then they're leaving a wide open opportunity for someone else to come and undercut them, even if just for a short time. There might be some 3rd app waiting in the wings to pick up price-sensitive riders and drivers whenever the "cartel" puts prices too high.

Anti-competitive behavior is easier when you have fewer players to coordinate, or—put another way—few opportunities for a defector.

I wouldn't venture to guess that Lyft/Uber is a good long-term state of affairs for the ride-scheduling market (or whatever you want to call it), but it's better than just Uber.

Also, consider that Lyft and Uber are spending big money to change the rules in every market—something that is only going to lower barrier to entry for new competitors. Based on real-world experience, I'm convinced that Uber is very worried about the follow-on effect and looking for ways to lock in customers, drivers, etc.

Anyway, this whole ride-scheduling thing is only going to last until it's possible to hop on the never-ending train of self-driving cabs.

> I'm saying that only two participants in a space does not typically yield the benefits of true competition.

The word "cartel" has a specific meaning that is different from "the opposite of true competition"

I agree with you, on your follow-up.

The word you are looking for is oligopoly

I didn't want to be stuck with the tab at the end of my trip, so I just followed the company guidelines for reimbursement - they had an expense account for the other 2 rides I took from HQ to hotel.

I've had a couple of zeros or very cheap fares in last couple of days as well. What was this zero in your case?

Not the GP but Uber has its Android Pay promo going right now, that was my last freebie.

I gave a referral code to my parents and used up the bonus.

I can tell you that downtown rides are about this cheap on Uber here in Toronto.

Scale is a big factor as well, maybe you're in a place with fewer drivers, or posher folks?

Can you clarify? You mean cheap as sillysaurus3's prices or mine?

We are a "smaller city", large population but a little sparse.

You're part of an extremely limited test group aimed at calculating the price elasticity of Uber.

They are just trying to get you hooked and habituated because once you get accustomed to it- they know you will be a life (or at least a very long term) customer.

Plus the $5 base fee, right?

So that's not nearly cheaper than taking public transit.

For example if I get an uber ride between my apartment and the train station, it's close to $2-3, but that's on top of the $5 base fee. So I could either pay $7-8, or I could pay $2 for the bus.

No, there's no $5 base fee for UberPool (at least not in Chicago).

Just double-checked the banking records. There's no base fee.

Where do you live that theres a base fee?

I've never heard of that

In Stockholm there's a 40kr (~$5) base fee for UberX: https://www.uber.com/cities/stockholm

For UberBLACK that's 50kr (~$6), and UberLUX starts out at 100kr (~$12).

> The reason it's so cheap is because Uber keeps carpet bombing my phone with 50% and 75% off promo deals.

Does this affect how much the driver receives? E.g. do they receive a share of the full fee, or the discounted one?

Their payout is based on the full fare.

What city?

I saw prices like this in Mumbai.

Shhh, don't tell Uber/Lyft, but I would gladly pay more than taxi rates to use their service. In my view, price is hardly the primary advantage they have over taxis.

For me, this starts with my complete distrust of metered taxi pricing in the first place. Literally every taxi ride I've ever had in the States had the driver take a longer route than they could have just gotten from Google, sometimes to the point of absurdity.

With Uber and Lyft, on the other hand, I know ahead of time what I'll be paying.

Drivers are eventually going to follow pretty closely what the metering algorithm wants them to, with a moderate adjustment for passenger satisfaction for the sake of tips. Consider different per fare starting fees, and different per mile and per minutes additional fees. If the fixed revenue part is relatively high you'll end up with very fast, but probably unsafe, cab rides. High per mile rates and you'll possibly end up on unecessary freeway legs. High per minute rates and you might get dropped where there are a lot of new fares rather than where you want to go.

Thats assuming the driver follows the route uber/lyft tells them to take. It is still really nice to have an idea of the route and the bill.

One reason I like Uber/Lyft more is I can take it a few blocks. A taxi driver would be upset if you only needed them for a short ride.

>>Shhh, don't tell Uber/Lyft, but I would gladly pay more than taxi rates to use their service.

Pretty sure they are aware, and just waiting until they have enough market share to make good on that.

Taxis are a shady business pretty much world wide it feels like.

It depends, for several years now I order taxis in my city from the same company and never had any problems - price is similar to Uber, ordering takes literally several seconds over the phone (call, tell the street, hang up) and drivers always take the shortest route (they usually know the city in and out, hardly ever using GPS). The only downside is that the cars are quite old, but always clean and a fun fact - a 20 years old Mercedes is more comfortable than a brand new Toyota :)

In my city (Melbourne Aus)

- There's a surcharge for phone bookings

- Taxis generally refuse small fares

- Taxis still just use their gps

- Taxis are more expensive

- Taxis drive more aggressively

- The cars aren't as clean

And they're wondering why their business is getting eaten alive...

Here in Seattle they bitch when you want to use a credit card, then pull out the really old mechanical slide things to take payment.

Coming from Canada where the card just works I was shocked.

Not in Montreal. The law obligating taxis to accept CC just passed a few months ago and many drivers still try to pull the broken machine stunt.

I've had two different taxi drivers in Montreal offer up their cell phone with their personal Square card reader and account instead of the official machine. The first one pulled out the real machine when I called him out on it. I paid and filed a complaint against him. The second refused and acted like nothing was wrong, even though I clearly knew what was up. I refused payment, filed a complaint, and have continued to receive service from the same company without issue.

The taxi industry is corrupt as hell. Credit card fraud, drivers who take clueless tourists on an hour trip when it is a 15 minute drive, theft of forgotten items in cars, unlicensed drivers driving others' cars when the legal driver is off-hours, etc. Some of these people belong in jail, but the worst they ever face is a slap on the wrist or possibly losing their job. Any competition to them - legal or not, I don't give a shit anymore - is welcome. Their monopoly is abused by the owners as well as many individual drivers. Their business deserves to fall apart.

Can you let me in on "what was up" with the square reader? Credit card theft/fraud? I never take taxis.

The legitimate credit card machine is provided by the taxi company. At least for Co-Op Taxi in Montreal, the company takes a 7% cut of the fare for all credit card transactions made on such machines. So some drivers buy a Square reader and set up a personal account to fraudulently take payments directly from customers into their pocket to avoid the 7% cut.

The driver is not only stealing from their company, but is also opening up customers to suspicious transactions. Do I trust a random criminal - they are criminals, no doubt about it - to swipe my credit card into his cell phone? No.

I asked an Edmonton co-op driver about the commonness of refusing to use card readers and he told me that one reason it happens, particularly at the end of a month, is because the dispatchers don't pay out credit card payments for something like 6 weeks. I imagine using Square helps get around that as well.

Agree on the suspicious transaction (though the opportunity for a cab driver to put a skimmer in their machine is pretty substantial to begin with), but I have a hard time seeing this as stealing from the dispatcher. If the cab takes cash, this is really just the driver acting as middleman and paying cash to the dispatcher. Unless they're also doing it unmetered, I guess, but that's a whole other ballgame.

In particular, I expect the dispatcher claims the additional cut is for transaction fees associated with a credit card. The driver is in this case taking the fees on themselves.

Driver gets the money, not the company.

The good part is they're ripping the company, not you. Unless they input a "wrong" value into square and you don't notice.

Or when it's "working", it's a scam to copy your PIN and give you the last victim's card back: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/taxi-debit-scam-1.3478...

It's partly a consequence of there being so few banks in Canada, so you only need 5 or 6 fraudulent cards to hand back to the user.

Until very recently they tended to do the same thing in Edmonton and Calgary, and they only started uniformly taking debit in the last couple of years at all, so that's definitely not a universally Canadian thing.

You should see their faces when you pay through the app they set up recently. Most of them don't know wtf is going on.

> You should see their faces when you pay through the app they set up recently

Well, then they can't pull the "credit card machine in the car isn't working, so let me drive you to an ATM so you can take out money to pay me. Sorry that I waited until after driving you to your destination to tell you this, despite the fact that my car advertises credit card payments on the outside. Oops! I also left the meter on while we drove to the ATM! Silly me! You still have to pay me for the extra on the meter, though." (Of course, if you threaten not to pay, the credit card machine magically comes to life.)

I wonder if any drivers will try and claim you haven't paid them when using the app (because witchcraft)

I had one radio into dispatch about it. Fortunately I wasn't in a hurry, so it was mostly amusing.

I miss being able to just jump out of the vehicle in Uber since they pulled out a couple months back. Hopefully they're back soon.

What are mechanical slide things? Like you swipe instead of use chip?

I can't tell if you're being cheeky or are just really young. Up until the past decade or two, it was very common to process credit cards by placing the card onto a tray with a slip of paper over it, and swipe a pressure bar over the tray. This physically caused the digits on the card to make an impression on the paper:


Many credit cards today simply have the digits printed on them in ink, rather than raised lettering, so I don't know how this would even work half the time today.

>Many credit cards today simply have the digits printed on them in ink, rather than raised lettering, so I don't know how this would even work half the time today.

It wouldn't and a lot of debit cards I know - at least in Europe - are issued exactly for that reason: So they don't work without online authorization.

I dont think I've seen a mechanical recorder since the late 90s and even then it was rare.

The only time I've seen one (actually the first time I learned about them) was at an outdoor market where I bought some handmade jewelry. The woman kept it around as a novelty alternative to her phone-dongle card reader.

The taxi drivers in Edinburgh used them until about 8 years ago. Then they were replaced with mobile phone based payment, then finally with chip and pin. When they used the mechanical impression machines, they wouldn't accept card payment from on-street pickups due to the risk of fraud (as perceived by the driver).

The other place I saw one used c2008 was when buying a ticket from a guard on the platform at Kings Cross after I missed my train. Then the ticket price didn't show up on my online card statement for about a month.

It's rare but I've seen them < 5 years ago in remote locations where electricity isn't everywhere (like rural tourist destinations).

I love them - makes me feel like I'm leading the travel high life in the 1970's. (same feeling I had when landing in Tunis national airport - cash exchange registers, competing with each other on rates! Actual coin operated pay phones! Loved it)

They're still kept around as a fallback in case the POS system goes down. At least, that was the case when I worked as a grocery store clerk 7-8 years ago.

EFT used to go down at the store I worked at weekly midnight Monday morning for maintenance for a few hours.

Processing them manually was the only option.

I don't recall seeing a zip zap machine like that in the last 10 years.

clunk clunk

I'm not certain that this is what the OP was referring to, but this is what I thought of:


It's a machine that you use with copy paper and slide it over the card. The name and numbers are raised up on most credit cards and leave an imprint on the paper. The cardholder then signs the paper.

I've used them when I worked at a department store for customers who's magnetic strip had worn out to the point that our computers couldn't read the card. I imagine the main reasons for a taxi driver to use one is that 1) it's cheap and reliable, and 2) it works offline.


They take an imprint of the embossed credit card details for later processing

What is there to imprint? Most cards I see dont' seem to have raised lettering; it's just printed numbers on the back.

Also, how does this work with chip-required cards?

This system was most commonly in the 90's and earlier. Back then all cards had raised letters. Many modern cards are online-only to reduce the rampant fraud possible with this old method.

Try taking a cab in Düsseldorf, there they don't have the slider and type down the CC number with a pen. Payment takes a couple minutes..

They also complain about you paying with CC, even after they had introduced a credit card surcharge last time I was there

I waited almost an hour for a cab in Sydney a few months ago, calling 3 times in between being told every time 'it's on its way', with a 3 and a 5 year old waiting outside on the sidewalk - not fun. Had to take the bus to get to my destination at all. Have gotten extremely suspicious of aus cabs since, despite my usual airport service being excellent.

Sydney has easily the worst cab service in the country. Half the time the cab doesn't even have A/C.

Also, I find that the airport service is made wonderfully redundant by the mostly excellent Airtrain.

I visited Adelaide once and had to get the map book out of the passenger-side pocket. For a destination in the CBD.

Same in Canberra - the problem most of the time is driver turnover. Say what you will about London cabs, but The Knowledge is an amazing thing.

> 20 years old Mercedes is more comfortable than a brand new Toyota

Is that true? It's been a long time since I've been in a 1996 S-class [0], but the Toyota Avalon Hybrid is rather comfortable.

[0] https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/da/Mercedes...

Most Uber x drivers aren't in an Avalon. I usually get a Camry or a Prius here in the bay.

I'd wager that a Camry is still more comfortable than a 20 year old Merc. The Prius is debatable.

The new Camry and Prius (V) are fantastic - that's what the taxis in Canberra, Australia are being replaced with, since the Ford Falcon AU hasn't been made since 2005 and the cars are starting to fall apart.

I'd say yes. Had a 92 E class and it was one comfortable car.

Uber was a godsend when I was in Kenya where metered taxis were out of the question and where taxi drivers were especially exhausting to haggle with. Even when I could possibly negotiate a cheaper price with a normal cab, I would usually call an Uber anyways just for the peace of mind.

That is, unless I sought the sheer thrill of tearing through the streets of Nairobi on the back of a motorcycle taxi.

They are so due to the business of issuing medallions.


In Japan taxis are very pleasant, but expensive, and can be complicated.

I say pleasant because the drivers are usually super-polite, dressed in a neat uniform, quick to get out of the car to help you, keep their cars immaculate, etc.

I say complicated because Japan has an infernal resistance to using street names and marking addresses. If you can get your destination to appear on the "navi", you're OK. If not, you'll be doing a lot of "more towards the castle" and similar guesswork.

Could you tell the driver a GPS address?

If you know it, probably. But if you don't, and if the navigation system doesn't know, it's going to be hard. The street numbering is different from the West.

In Japan and South Korea, a city is divided into small numbered zones. The houses within each zone are then labelled in the order in which they were constructed, or clockwise around the block.


Korea introduced street names and house numbers a few years ago and the new system is now the only official, though of course the former system is still popular. For taxis usually you still name nearby landmarks but they can also input a (western-style) address into their GPS.

Usually, they can tap in the phone number of your destination and it will come up. That's a popular way to use in-car GPS here, and reasonably reliable.

Japan's amazing urban geography doesn't seem like something Uber can fix, surely.

Just think how bad it might be if cities were to create regulations to keep out anyone besides Uber.

Then Uber might create a medallion system - artificially limiting the number of cars on the road - to maximize their profits [1]. Uber would also have no real incentive to monitor their driver's behavior - after all, it's not like they'll lose any business to Ola, Lyft or Meru. They might even engage in racist protectionism, like banning cab drivers from the wrong ethnic group [2]!

I sure hope no one ever gets this kind of monopoly on taxi cabs!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxicabs_of_New_York_City#Meda...

[2] http://www.firstpost.com/india/dont-know-marathi-cant-drive-... (For those unfamiliar, Shiv Sena is basically the Donald Trump party of Maharashtra.)

Uber has no need to worry about maximizing profits via limiting drivers, or need for a medallion system, in the long term given that their long-term goal is no drivers at all:


(one example; there are more recent articles)

Uber's headstart already makes it difficult for any upstart to compete with UberPool. In Toronto, Uber appears to be taking aggressive action against drivers that refuse Pool:


There's no reason Uber would create a medallion system. They'd just raise the commissions that drivers pay.

The company's stated goals are to compete against mass transit, so I doubt they would raise prices. And they would be making the exact same mistake that their predecessors did, which led them to get disrupted. I'm pretty sure Uber isn't that stupid to not realize if they started acting like taxi companies, they would pretty easily get disrupted the way they have been as well.

If they did all it would do is decrease demand, and would allow other competitors to make their ways into the ridesharing market. I think the CEO is smart enough to know that making a product that is great for customers with margins so low that it makes it really hard for new competitors to come up is a great business to be in.

Perhaps, especially if you mean that surge pricing will be above regular taxi pricing.

That said, I'm fine with that. I live in a suburban area and getting a (traditional) taxi is complicated and getting a car service is both complicated and expensive. Uber is simple and convenient and I'm fine with paying (some) premium for that.

Uber says they don't surge the price because your battery is low. All that's happening here is users are less willing to wait out a surge when they're in danger of being without an Uber (and an inability to call a cab).

Why would there be no competition to Uber? Are they lobbying for traditional taxi companies to be banned from the market?

But why should traditional taxis still drive for lower rates when they could earn more through Uber?

In Paris it will very rapidly outbid traditional Taxi companies. Uber hooks into the psychological side of in the now calculation, you only think about the base price not the end-to-end fee, by the time you're paying it's too late.

The common complaint against Uber is that drivers barely make any money when you factor in minimum wage.

Their solution won't be increased prices, it'll be the end of drivers. I'd love to see someone actually run the cashflows, but the current prices seem to me about adequate for healthy profit on driverless vehicles. All this nonsense about paying drivers is just incredibly expensive market building.

>> The common complaint against Uber is that drivers barely make any money when you factor in minimum wage.

The question is whether drivers are making less than minimum wage. This is admittedly more difficult to calculate in an unbiased manner due to a lack of consensus as to whether gas, insurance, vehicle maintenance, etc. should be counted towards a driver's costs of operation.

My intuition says that it shouldn't matter. If a driver is willing to work for a very small margin of profit or even at a financial loss, it's their fault for taking a job that doesn't provide. If Uber doesn't pay, then don't work for Uber, it's as simple as that! Let the market decide; if people were to refuse working for pennies, then Uber would be forced to offer decent income or go out of business due to lack of drivers. And yet after having this initial opinion, the thought occurs... what if this was the norm for employment? Clearly we cannot operate as a society if every job paid like that. At some point, does regulation need to kick in to prevent such abuses from being the norm?

I don't know. It just makes no sense to me that anyone would be an Uber driver if it doesn't pay whatsoever. I can't decide who's more at fault - Uber, or the people offering themselves up as bait to a broken system.

Why is there a "lack of consensus as to whether gas, insurance, vehicle maintenance, etc. should be counted towards a driver's costs of operation"? The driver pays for these things, so they should count towards the driver's cost of operation. Seems clear to me.

Also, it seems you are happy for Uber to effectively pay below minimum wage. Does that mean you want to see minimum wage abolished?

I know, my position isn't quite decided. I just think there's a certain onus on the people who choose to be drivers, who accept the way things are. Why the hell are they agreeing to work for Uber if they're not making any money? Go find a job that pays then. By taking up a job with Uber and dealing with their bull, they're directly supporting and sustaining that system.

I can understand why it would be terrible if every business tried to pull this shit. Nobody gets paid to work? How would society function? But if you work for an outlying company like Uber where there is no money, that is your problem. Go find a paying job. It's not like Uber has a monopoly on the job market and everyone is required to work for them, for nothing. It's a choice. So don't choose to work for nothing? All I'm hearing is "I signed up to be a driver for Uber. I know they pay nothing, but I intentionally choose to work here, knowing it pays nothing!".

If this were a real problem, Uber would not have any drivers, and they would be out of business. If it were an even more serious problem, we'd have tons of companies paying nothing, and our first world economies would collapse overnight.

You could say the same about gambling, loan sharks, and minimum wage laws in general. We have these laws to protect people from themselves. We aren't all rational decision makers, especially not those of us who are desperate.

What would be the downsides of forcing companies that are engaging people in tasks that require operating a vehicle to offer reimbursement for that operation?

A big upside is that it simplifies evaluating the position for the person doing the work.

A downside is that the company would have to monitor for fraud (but this is pretty easy for Uber which is premised on tracking the distance the vehicle travels).

(contractors and employees, either arrangement)

One company offering below minimum wage and you can go to another place

Everyone offering below minimum wage because that's ok now and you are fucked.

I don't think Uber should be allowed to offer below minimum wage, personally.

Why wouldn't a competitor undercut them if they did that?

In my (possibly incorrect) understanding, the promise of uber to shareholders is the network effect. However, you're right. This elasticity only goes so far. If Uber is smart, they should work hard to keep prices (and profits) low as long as they can afford to do so.

If Uber becomes what you imagine it will get replaced.

Do you have any evidence of this other than normal HN parnoia?

Why would they. Their cut would not be a hell of a lot more with a price hike. Why kill off sales? Why open up to competitors?

They are in a numbers game. Not a high ticket game.

Can you give an example of another company that has done this?

McDonald's hasn't gone to $20 burgers.. why would Uber price hike?

McDonald's hasn't, quoting the OP you responded to, 'cut off all competition'. Are you imagining that with no competition, McDonald's would still not raise prices?

People could still cook at home or go to restaurants, so I think McDonalds with no competition wouldn't. Why would they risk losing their monopoly if they had one in fast food.

Uber doesn't care what it drivers earn, why would it hurt sales by giving them more money?

Uber has broken a monopoly, yet people are prattling on that they might create one?

Has a company ever done this, one real world example?

Why get a monopoly by out pricing the competition then raise prices to allow someone to do it back to you?

The idea that Uber can cut off all competition is suspect. They had to spend a lot of money because they were fighting the taxi monopoly and introducing a new type of product. But nowadays, all you need to compete is an app. The threat of competition is always there, as there's very little lock-in for both users and drivers.

In my area 2.1x surge (plus base fare) is still cheaper than a normal -and notoriously shitty- taxi.

In the article: "..the company can track your smartphone battery life.."

They ARE tracking my battery, all the time!

I looked into the HTTPS-trafic from the Uber-app (with MITMproxy) and it is one of the few that send my battery and charging status on a regular basis:

          "battery_status": "unplugged",
          "battery_level": 0.73,

It would be interesting to run a script that changed the battery status data in the HTTPS-trafic to make it look like it is dropping fast.

Just to see if there is a correlation with the price, waiting time and available drivers I am getting back.

And if so, get lower rates by running a script which lies to Uber and says the battery is plugged in and at 100%.

Then I would set up a proxy through my home server to change the battery-status based on my need

But isn't your need to always pay the minimum amount?

How do you proxy their traffic ?

I couldn't because they seem to use pinned certificates.

Read up on MITMproxy. It works best on Mac. For Windows I recommend Kali-Linux virtually so you don't have to build for Ubuntu. If you have problems just email me: morten(at)punnerud.net

They only force HTTPS, not their own sertificate as in Facebook and Snapchat.

Visit mitm.it on your phone (after you have set up a proxy through your pc running MITMproxy) to automatically ad a sertifificate to get it working, or generate your own if you don't trust the service.

I wonder how much of this is also due to poor impulse control. People with stronger impulse control are more likely to charge their phones fully beforehand, and/or minimize their usage of it, so as to keep their charge at a healthy level. Such people are also less likely to accept higher surge prices, and choose alternatives that are cheaper but less convenient.

Or people have worse impulse control when they're already annoyed at their low battery.

Or people need to get home and if their phone dies they'll be stranded.... been there.

I wouldn't be in the least surprised if companies will use your previous buying behavior to give you a custom price.

It's not all that different from a store/car salesman sizing you up based on clues like your clothing and quoting a price based on that. Home repair contractors will also size up the value of your home and give you a quote based on that for the same work.

I know I've been treated differently by bankers and car salesman based on my dress.

> I know I've been treated differently by bankers [...] based on my dress.

This is very true. At one point I managed a bit of money in a Wells Fargo PMA. It was fun to dress and groom similarly to The Dude, wander into branches like I was lost, and get treated like crap until they looked at the screen. Invariably they quickly summoned a manager to whisk me away to an office and asked if I wanted coffee, and their demeanor immediately changed. It became a personal hobby of mine for a while because they very obviously treat the "normals" differently than Premier accountholders. (Doesn't work at my new bank, sadly.)

I'm sure a number of folks here retain balances that far exceed my own at the time. Try this sometime. It's a fun psychological demonstration.

Anecdotally I know somebody in Seattle who absolutely freaked out a bank branch manager by moving their entire account after being treated poorly... You never know who fits in the venn diagram of:

a) likes to work on their own cars on the weekend

b) goes to the bank in oil spotted work clothes

c) has family that purchased a large chunk of microsoft stock in 1987

That sounds like fun, but I can't think of any reason why I would ever need to visit a bank, or keep more than a trivial amount of money in a bank with physical branches, when their interest rates are so low.

What are the tangible benefits of a non-Internet bank these days?

It's not psychological, it's just business. There's a relationship between wealth and how you dress, and banks couldn't give a shit about poor people.

> There's a relationship between wealth and how you dress

There most certainly is not, full stop, and this is the psychological aspect to which I am referring and colorfully exploiting in my anecdote. Someone who hangs out on Hacker News should realize this, since our profession in particular has minted a large number of people who are exorbitantly wealthy and still wear Old Navy flip flops and hoodies. Poor people also inherit Prada, and quite a few hucksters within multiple industries dress in a particular way to exploit this psychological conditioning while having no money at all.

This is the entire point of my comment, and assuming that relationship exists says more about your subscription to certain expectations and conditioning about people than your remarks on "business." It's actually a disservice to yourself to assume there is a relationship between wealth and style based on customs that are increasingly becoming dated.

There most certainly is. You've pointed out some exceptions but do you really think that on the whole they're not correlated? Having more money means people can afford to dress better and are more likely to travel in circles in which dressing well is important.

This may be a bad thing, but it's a reality that people are attuned to - it's a useful heuristic even though it's imperfect. Should you treat people badly because of it? No, but you shouldn't treat them badly even if you were 100% sure they weren't wealthy. That's a separate problem.

Okay, but ask yourself if that's an actual correlation or an imagined one based on customs and psychological factors. (Which is my point.)

The assertion was that "there is a relationship," without any sort of qualification. I'm saying that relationship only exists because of the belief itself and if we all stopped believing it tomorrow, there would be no relationship any longer. So it's not really a correlation at all and only an imaginary one that has largely built itself up on conditioning, upbringing, and so on.

I'm not saying you're wrong nor denying a tenuous correlation, I'm saying it's faulty to assume a correlation where one only exists due to external factors, and that leads to the problems that both you and I point out with the correlation.

> if we all stopped believing it tomorrow

Similarly, money provides no power in society to the person controlling it. Because if we all stopped believing that it would continue to work in the future, it wouldn't.

... This is an obviously incorrect argument! There are things that occur only because of widespread belief. Nevertheless, those things do occur!

> There most certainly is not, full stop

This is an extremely bold claim. You are claiming that within less than a generation, people stopped dressing as a way to send social signals. I think you are so off base you must live in a tech bubble.

> It's actually a disservice to yourself to assume there is a relationship between wealth and style based on customs that are increasingly becoming dated.

Curious why you think car sales folks are irrational. Do you really think the guy who targets the "likely to buy" customers based on appearance does worse than the guy who takes all comers?

I have a bridge to sell you if you don't think profiling like this works. Sure you miss the outliers, but the mainstream makes up for it.

Is it becoming dated? Perhaps if you're looking for a 3 piece suit. But there are still all sorts of "wealth" signals the vast majority of people probably don't even know they are giving off in the way they dress.

> there are still all sorts of "wealth" signals the vast majority of people probably don't even know they are giving off in the way they dress.

Yup. The shoes, belt, watch, haircut, demeanor, the way you talk, walk, all give off signals to the astute salesman.

Which works fine until there's also a Lyft car that's not price gouging. You can only price discriminate if you have a monopoly.

A monopoly is not required. It works fine as long as the price differential is low enough that the user decides it is not worth the effort to investigate alternatives.

Variable pricing is applied all the time in all sorts of businesses. It even happens when there is a sticker price.

>It works fine as long as the price differential is low enough

Then it wouldn't really be price gouging.

you missed the last chunk of that sentence: " that the user decides it is not worth the effort to investigate alternatives.". If I don't have a Lyft account and have only ever used Uber, I may not want to go through the hassle of downloading the app, registering, having Lyft text me, etc etc.

It's still not price gouging. Your premise is that the price difference is not low enough to bother checking, which means there is no price gouging.

Of course it is not. You can come up with thousands of situations in which you can increase your price without having a monopoly, just that they don't explain anything meaningful.

Agreed. I really hope Lyft grows and sticks around. There needs to be competition in this space. I could foresee a future where Uber wins, normal taxis go away. Then Uber because shity just like taxis have always been.

I don't foresee such a future. Previously the barrier to entry by Uber, Lyft, etc. was government regulation. With those entrants the market is effectively deregulated. Short of the taxi cartel joining forces with the Uber drivers, Uber becoming "shitty" won't happen because people would switch to Lyft or back to taxis.

> I wouldn't be in the least surprised if companies will use your previous buying behavior to give you a custom price.

Amazon already does this for a lot of items based on your account, cookies, user agent and previous buying history. Try pulling up a few items and having a few friends or colleagues also search for and add the same items to their cart. Even with the same shipping zip code (shipped to same office during work hours), prices will differ.

This is not true. Amazon will change their price throughout the day on some items, but pricing is not customized to the buyer. Perhaps you were looking at different times, or from different sellers, or one was a prime account (which changes shipping prices and can change which seller wins the buy box), etc.

I've looked into several claims of Amazon doing this and none turned out to be true.

They say they're not going to use this data to set fares, but honestly, if my battery's dying, I actually do want to pay more if it means a driver's more likely to agree to pick me up before my battery dies. In general, I wish I could turn on surge pricing for myself.

the Uber app (anecdotal, have not done data/quant appraisal) seems to be a horribly unoptimized piece of shit that rapes battery life. While my phone was in low battery mode with 6% battery life, I turned on uber to get a ride. It killed my battery from 6% to 0 in minutes as the only app running. Tjis has happened 2 or 3 times recently, seems isolated to uber and I feel like it is because uber is aggressively data mining my phone & using all of the resources I have for computation instead of off siting it. So anyway, I had to pay $45 to get a cab after waiting in the rain for ~35 minutes at a gas station in a bad area at 12:00am. I am not saying that I have evidence, but my gut is that uber data mining and excessive cpu usage caused my phone to die much faster than expected.

A local taxi app here in Bogotá has this feature, you can say your ride is a "VIP" ride and choose an pay some extra money to ensure you get your taxi faster.

Uber has that in New York if you ride enough

In Singapore, drivers told me to put a guaranteed tip in the "notes" section when it's difficult to find a driver, as many people add 5-10 dollars that way and get picked up first. Personal surge is also what came to mind reading the headline.

So 2016 version of waving a $20 bill to get a chance first?

So Uber's not paying its drivers enough in Singapore, causing shortages of Uber rides, causing the amortized corruption of tipping to sneak back in.

I wouldn't use Uber under those circumstances; it sounds almost as bad as taxis.

I should be more specific: this applied mostly to Grab, an Uber competitor (the South East Asian Lyft if you will), in its early days before it implemented its own surge pricing (which is invisible - the price changes upwards, but is quoted upfront after you enter your destination).

Today, both Uber and Grab have relatively short dispatch times (usually < 1-2 minutes where I live) at all times of the day and night.

The interesting phenomenon is that both are running incentive campaigns and depending on which one has the better incentives, the other one will end up with dispatch times over 10 minutes. Like many customers, I run both apps and pick whichever is the flavour of the week based on dispatch time. I have a very slight preference for Grab since they quote the price upfront, but generally, taking UberX after a Grab quote, it comes to the same number or within 5% either way.

Talking to drivers (I take Grab/Uber over 10x a week), I've noticed:

- virtually all (one exception in the last 4 months) drive for both, and have a phone for each (Grab does not have an iOS app, apparently);

- virtually all drivers have done it for less than 6 months, lending credence to the "fast food joint" theory of Uber driving (that it provides temp unskilled jobs with no long term prospects like fast food joints in the US);

- maybe 80% of drivers are part timers, often unskilled workers (e.g. shop staff, construction) who are moonlighting, often because they have a lot of kids (highest was 8) and their wage is not amazing;

- taxi drivers tell me virtually all bookings are now from either of the apps; one said he did only one physical street flag in the last 6 months! I anecdotally knew this to be the case for me, as even when the taxi queue is free I still book my car via the apps, so I don't have to pay in cash and because dispatch times are so quick;

- some of the incentives seemed pretty good: if you made $150 in one day (the average trip being around $6-8) you got a whopping $23 extra per trip!

Taxis in Singapore get substantial discounts both on car rental and gas ($0.70/l diesel for taxis vs $2/l petrol for everybody else) so the economics are funny; Singapore is one of the few countries where taxis are competitive with UberX. During surge hours, I take taxis on Grab since the rate does not seem to be surged unlike Uber, and there's always plenty around.

This is not true of all other countries I've used Uber in. For example, in Sydney, in the last 2 years UberX has been about half taxi equivalent fares; in Paris, Uber Black (UberX is now famously illegal) is slightly cheaper than taxis but you get a really nice car and a much friendlier driver.

Emotional anecdote: I had an older Malay driver who struggled a little bit with English and upon driving past Little India, pointed at his old school (he now lives a good half hour away as the area has massively gentrified). He said he got in with a bad crowd at school and spent many years in jail due to gang activities, but he climbed back out of it, got a job, married and had two kids. He drove Uber/Grab in part because the money was exceptionally good compared to his other options as an ex-con, in part because it was a way to have a car in Singapore where the permit for 10 years of ownership costs upwards of $100,000, the apps income offsetting the rental cost for the day. He wanted a car because his kids were proud and happy when he drove them to school instead of having to take public transport. He said this practically with tears in his eyes as if it was the most important thing in the world to him.

>Chen said it's just "an interesting kind of psychological fact of human behaviour." He stressed the company is not going to act on the information to set fares.

...but battery optimization of the Uber app is now a lower priority, amirite?

takeaway: giving your battery status information to apps that do not explicitly need it for core functionality is a bad idea.

From the article:

> Chen also said people are getting used to the surge and Uber has seen demand during peak periods drop by a much smaller amount than when it introduced the system.

Doesn't that mean that surge pricing is starting to fail? Isn't the whole point of surge pricing precisely to spread demand out so it's not all concentrated at peak times?

Wouldn't surge pricing also increase the supply of available Uber drivers?

That was one of the stated goals but in practice it doesn't, according to some folks at Northeastern.* Uber says they're wrong, and Uber is certainly in a position to know, but I personally don't trust PR people farther than I can throw them, so who knows.


The purpose of surge pricing is to increase profits, the excuse is efficiency.

No, the purpose of surge pricing is to get more drivers out on the road. That, in turn, is to increase profits, but I'm fairly certain you could argue that pretty much anything any company does is to "increase profits"

Uber can try to optimize prices to: maximize revenue, maximize profit, or maximize volume of rides.

And there's no reason to expect that only the latter Uber has in mind.

Huh? Even by the charitable interpretation, the purpose of surge pricing is to reduce the number of drivers being requested (so that the drivers who are actually available aren't overwhelmed).

The purpose is to make supply closer match demand. If fares increase, more drivers will be willing to drive. If fares increase, less consumers will request rides.

You're correct in assuming that increased prices will reduce the number of drivers demanded. But you're wrong in assuming that the pool of available drivers remains static when prices increase.

An increase in price both reduces the quantity demanded, and increases the quantity supplied. I've personally met Uber drivers who plan their work schedules around the times when surge is highest.

I think you are missing the part where drivers get paid more during surge pricing. An increased reward entices more drivers to come out during that time.

Or motivation for drivers to deadhead to a surge area, or take a couple extra rides before taking a break/signing off the for the night.

I'd be curious to see if certain locations trigger surge pricing, too. My wife and I got sideswiped about a month ago, had to go to the ER in Austin.

Got out, had no way to get back to our truck, nor to our house an hour outside Austin. Called Uber, figuring we'd at least get a ride back to the truck to get our stuff, and see if any friends could take us the rest of the way home.

Despite nothing going on in town that night, and only being about 8:30pm, the app warned me of surge pricing, saying it would be 1.5x the usual fare. Didn't have many other options, and had been happy with Uber in the past, so went ahead.

Driver was cool, and not only took us back to the truck, but drove us all the way home, complete with a flat tire we helped him change on the side of a busy, dark toll road, and running out of gas.

Wound up being $98, and that guy really earned his tip. I still wonder if the fact that we called from the exit of the ER triggered surge pricing, though. Not a great time to experiment, but I could've probably walked a few blocks and tried again, if my wife wasn't in the shape she was in at the time.

I have to ask for clarification. Did you run out of gas, or did you only run low on gas?

Running out of gas seems like a real unfortunate thing to have happen during a paid ride and falls pretty squarely on the shoulders of the driver.

Thankfully, it wasn't sputtering on the side of the road out of gas, just the dashboard light coming on indicating that that was 10-30 minutes away.

I strongly doubt that Uber is dumb enough to apply surge pricing specifically to emergency rooms.

No it's all drive by algorithms, based on supply-and-demand. If they targeted specific locations for surge pricing, they would certainly get their asses sued to oblivion and a ton of horrible press, especially if they targeted emergency rooms.

The real question is why Uber has access to battery status information.

See this doc for details of how iOS lets apps request to be notified upon entering low power mode: https://developer.apple.com/library/ios/documentation/Perfor...

Well, here's the problem. Once, the "low power mode" is entered on iOS - it remains on that mode until your battery is charged more than 80%.

Easy enough to turn it off if you need to before getting back to 80%, though in my experience that scenario rarely comes up. (I do, on the other hand, often find myself turning it on before my battery is low enough to automatically suggest it to me, when thinking ahead about how long until I'd be able to charge.)

That was the point. There might be some false positives for uber here.

Sure, but anecdotalmoly I'd guess 95% of my false positives are caused by my being cautious early, not by recharging without hitting 80%

From the article: "The ride-hailing service is alerted when a customer's phone battery is running low because the app switches into power-saving mode."

So apparently it's cool to data-mine data like this as long as it's totally going to be used only for a power saving mode.

This is Google's MO pretty much. Provide an incentive for the user to hand over user data for something in return. Maps, Google Voice, Gmail

Chrome and Firefox allow web pages to query your battery status.

And iOS and Android do too. Just download a battery app to see how much.

Apps are told when a phone's battery is low so that they can change into a battery conserving state.

That assumes they are nice apps. Not apps that will charge you more when the battery is low.

I'd rather uninstall battery-hogging apps

It rather depends on why they are hogging the battery.

Example #1, since it's an "app" you can't remove but that many (I'd guess not far away from most?) people use, is Mail. I wish my email servers would send push notifications, but they don't, so Mail is constantly checking for updates. That uses battery, but it's something I want it using battery for. And then in battery saver mode, it stops automatically checking, so you won't notice any new emails until you either turn off the mode, or go into Mail and manually have it sync.

If there isn't a setting to block apps from querying your battery status, I would hope both Google and Apple provide a way to allow the user to optionally disable this soon.

Uber seems like the kind of company that would require that permission for the app to run.

Because someone thought apps (web or otherwise) having access to battery status information would, in the usual language, "allow us to improve the user experience", and that feature was added. It's the same justification as for GPS location, except in this case those who opposed did not notice that someone could use battery status for exploiting and profiling users too.

You see, this is what we're talking about with free software. When there's something good (using power supply information to avoid draining a critical battery for a user) that we would like to enable, we can enable it.

When the software is adversarial, we can't have nice things.

When the software is adversarial, we can't have nice things.

Sadly, yes. On low battery, Uber's app could change its attract screen (the map with the fake moving cars) to a static, dim screen with just the Uber logo. But no, they have to phone home to Uber Central.

At least they don't crank up the GPU to run the battery down further, then announce surge pricing. Yet.

GNU's Not Uber, FOSS won't give me a ride to the airport. So, there are nice things you don't get either way.

Maybe people who run their phone all the way down are just the type who are less careful with their pocketbook

You don't use your phone once it's below 60%?

You are an edge case, my friend.

I took it out to make it less about me. When my phone gets below about 60 I turn it off and use it only when needed. I don't want to be in a situation where I need it and don't have it.

I'm also the kind that carries around emergency money in his wallet and has a first aid kit and spare headlight in his car. In fact, I keep a spare credit card in my desk drawer with my passport so that if I lose my wallet I won't be without money for a few days. Thanks dad, you taught me well

When my phone gets below 60 I've got 2 days left.

(Moto G 2015)

All you need is some gold coins, some matches and a well sharpened hunting knife, and you will be able to handle anything :-)

Have you considered that maybe because you've put so much thought into this you have disdain for people who haven't? I can tell from your first post. Your first thought is to blame those nasty people who dare using they phone on low battery.

under 60%, really? That seems like overkill...

It's probably mostly lifestyle driven. If someone takes public transit (say, living the bay or ny) as opposed to their own car (say living in houston or la), there's one less charging opportunity.

Then if someone has a job where there's lots of meetings or lots of walking ... etc ...

For whatever reason, in my life at least, it's almost always north of 80%. And I don't have some special smartphone (in fact, I don't even know the model offhand). This has been a consistent story since I started carrying mobiles 15 years ago

I really don't follow your logic, if you hardly ever use more than the first 20% of the battery, why do you need to leave three times that amount as your safety cushion by turning off when you get down to 60%?

I don't drive, but do carry a small USB charger with me anytime I either go out for most of the day, especially if for work, and sometimes on nights out. I still can get to the end of a long day having used all of both my phone's and my charger's batteries. But I don't turn my phone off before it gets to 9%, because 9% is more than enough to do whatever emergency thing I might need my phone for at the end of the day. I'd be able to turn it back on and... make a few phone calls. Or order and wait for an Uber. Or look up transport options on Google Maps. Or open my bus/train ticket app to get on-board.

(I do, however, often think ahead and would sometimes put battery saver mode on even when I'm as high as 80% charged, if I know it's a long time until my next charge, it means people can still contact me but there might be a slight delay, it means I can still use it soon as I pull it out of my pocket, and it means I'm much less likely to need to turn it off at all.)

I understand that. The reality is that it almost never gets below the top quintile ... so if I see it getting near 50, then it's very likely going to get to be a zero condition.

"60%? I better turn off my phone before it runs out of power and turns off".

This came out of an interesting interview in this episode of The Hidden Brain:


Here's the link to the write up by NPR Hidden Brain:


I expect Uber to eventually show prices based on how likely someone is going to accept 'surge' prices and how large a surge someone is willing to pay.

Could also mean that those surge accepters will find faster rides. Since they're not marked cars, you (as someone who may not accept surges) will never know that an Uber driver is passing you by for a juicier passenger.

That's how it already works; a nice aspect of surge pricing is that if you are willing to pay, you don't have to wait longer than you otherwise would.

I view the GP as suggesting that Uber has an incentive to show some people a larger surge price than what the market would suggest since those people will pay it anyway. (And people don't have enough information to know if Uber is charging them more because they can get away with it or if that is the price that anyone who wants a ride would pay.)

Sounds like a great parasite business idea... the "surge protector"

Surge pricing = new name for Value Based Pricing https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value-based_pricing

Web 2.0, when the marketing team doesn't let retarded technical names make it to production.

> Company researcher says Uber won't be acting on the information to set fares

I don't believe that.

(on the risk of being downvoted)

People with Appendix attack, stroke, stab wounds would be likely to accept 100x surge. If only Uber was able to detect them.

The company has determined that customers are more willing to accept surge pricing if they have a medical emergency and need to get to the hospital. Oh, your battery is low too? Well, now you are really screwed. Dynamic pricing!

I thought that HN loved the "price for vague, not for cost" mantra. That's what they're doing when they charge you more on low battery.

Yeah, it's will could be


Duh. But not duh is that we are, through info leakage from our technology, unknowingly allowing companies to exploit our current circumstances for their profit. I think the reason this story has gotten a lot of play is that people are not comfortable with this kind of thing, and yet also feel helpless to prevent it.

There is Lyft and there are normal taxi services too. I don't see Uber having a (unfair) leverage over the user.

network effects means it's winner-take-all in each market. all the drivers go to the service that has the most users who then have no reason to use the other service. then after being anti-regulation during the 'disruption' phase, Uber will be the incumbent and be quite happy to accept regs to make it harder for other services to start up. and they'll charge as much as they can based on being able to tell from your phone what your usage pattern is and how price-sensitive/desperate you are at any given time.

you ever called a taxi service while in the middle of a suburb at 1am?

Ride sharing has probably really hurt people who need a ride in the middle of the night. There used to be a whole crew of taxi drivers who preferred working the night shift. They'd make most of their money from the bar traffic. It'd get slow after 2am (last call), then people would start waking up to go to work at 4am. Sometimes I'd get a fare between 2am and 4am, depending on if I was taking a break in the right place. The fares that popped up on our electronic dispatch "board" in the middle of the night would usually get snapped up quickly, by someone.

Then the vultures skimmed off a lot of the "easy money" bar traffic (7pm-2am). There are now only a fraction of the cabs on the road in the middle of the night as there used to be; I'm certain that "ride share cars" have not replaced all the cabs that used to be available at 3am.

Towards the end of my taxi driving career, there was a fellow trying to go home from work at 10pm, from his restaurant at the edge of the map. He'd mostly switched to using the vultures' phone app, but there wasn't a "ride share" available. So he called Phoenix's legendarily-reliable taxi cab company, and I got him home. It was a few dollars more than getting a "ride", but at least he didn't have to walk.

not to be rude, but this makes no sense to me. I would be a customer so that is the lens I am viewing this from but my interpretation was:

* I liked working nights until the "vultures" allowed other people to work nights which increased supply and lowered prices.

* One time, I picked up a guy who had trouble getting home because there wasn't always a vulture nearby. It cost him more money.

* 7pm-2am on weekends are high volume times

edit: I think the point was that because ridesharing typically knocks off at 2am or 3am there is a hole between 3am and 5am or something. However, taxi rates are pretty murderous at this hour at least when I've paid them. Regardless, between a taxi, lyft and uber someone needing a ride will be better off at all times of day.

Thanks for your comments.

There are fundamental problems involved in transporting people from place to place that are not solved by the new entrants to the industry. The only innovation offered by "ridesharing" is having a more flexible workforce. While this helps with periods of high demand (drinking holidays, etc), the ridesharing model is not sustainable.

I mean to reconstruct my kuro5hin blog [1], but haven't gotten to that project yet.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11612648

Do you mean that this is a classic case of supply and demand? I don't see a problem with this.

But I don't think this is what was mentioned in the article.

you ever plan a round trip instead of winging it?

Its still way cheaper than regular taxis here in Kolkata and thank you power banks.

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