Can the algorithms used by ridesharing and delivery startups be fair? • TechCrunch

In June 2020taking advantage of a Chicago law requiring ride-sharing apps to disclose their prices, researchers from George Washington University have published an analysis of the algorithms used by ride-sharing startups like Uber and Lyft to set fares. He highlighted evidence that the algorithms charged more for cyclists living in buildings with older, lower-income and less-educated populations than those who came from affluent areas, an effect the researchers linked to the high popularity of – and thus to the strong demand for – ride-sharing in more affluent neighborhoods.

Uber and Lyft dismissed the study’s findings, saying there were flaws in the methodology. But it was barely the first one study to identify troubling inconsistencies in the algorithmic decision-making of applications.

Passengers are not the only victims of routing and pricing algorithms. Uber has recently come under fire for implementing “upfront fares” for drivers, which rely on an algorithm to calculate fares in advance using factors that aren’t always in favor of drivers. drivers.

In the delivery space, Amazon routing The system would encourage drivers to make dangerous decisions on the road in search of shorter delivery windows. Meanwhile, apps like DoorDash and Instacart use algorithms to calculate couriers’ pay – algorithms that some delivery people say have made it harder to predict and determine their earnings.

As experts like Amos Toh, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch who studies the effects of AI and algorithms on on-demand work, note, the more opaque the algorithms, the harder it is for regulators and the public to keep up. responsible companies.

Sharon D. Cole