That’s according to a new study that shows that riders with African-American-sounding names are more likely to wait longer to be accepted for a ride or have their trip canceled than people with white-sounding names. The results are contained in a working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.The has been ongoing enforcement actions with regard to rental housing and taxis for decades, and the so-called "sharing economy" is predicated on the half baked idea that "because internet" we can do away with all those pesky regulations.
Researchers from MIT, Stanford University, and the University of Washington studied almost 1,500 rides on defined routes in both Seattle and Boston.
In the Seattle experiments, the researchers found that people with African-American-sounding names typically had to wait 29 seconds for an Uber acceptance and 23 seconds for a Lyft acceptance, compared to just 21 and 19 seconds respectively for riders with white-sounding names.
Results from the Boston experiments show more of a problem for Uber. Here, the researchers found that riders with African-American-sounding names had Uber rides cancelled 10.1 percent of the time, versus just 4.9 percent of the time for those with white-sounding names. Results for Lyft journeys actually showed a small skew in the opposite direction.
Similar approaches have been posited by academics for adoption by Airbnb, which itself struggles with the issue of discrimination, as Edelman has shown in the past. But these kinds of services have been built on the use of information sharing as a means of building trust and creating a more efficient service (not that it always works). Any move away from that model will be a big step for Airbnb, Uber, or Lyft.
Still, it is a step that needs to be taken. “At Uber and Lyft, as at Airbnb in my findings, platform design all but invites service providers to discriminate,” says Edelman. “Consumers should demand more of these platforms—and so should regulators.”
The world does not work that way, and has never worked that way.