Uber’s new tool gives drivers more control, sparks concern

Uber is rolling out a new feature that allows drivers to see where a passenger is going ahead of time, which gives them the freedom to reject the ride if they want.

Critics say that such a tool can be problematic for a neighborhood that is considered undesirable due to high crime.

“We are concerned about the new tool because we’re very worried that discrimination will occur and drivers will choose to not pick up in certain areas… or drop off in certain areas,” said Ellen Wu, executive director of Oakland-based Urban Habitat.

The passage of AB5, known as the gig worker law, raises the bar for companies when it comes to classifying workers as independent contractors. 

When asked whether they thought the change was a positive move, some customers told us that the issue is not cut and dry. 

“The driver can choose. I mean if you’re a driver and you’ve experienced driving people who are not the safest then you have that option,” said Georgia Baker.

While her husband, a Marin City native, told us that such a move would likely affect low-income communities. 

“The challenge would be that (could be) discrimination were maybe you can’t get a ride into a local neighborhood,” said Treves Baker.

While public transit agencies are subject to certain regulations, critics believe the rideshare business needs oversight to make sure they are acting in the best efforts of the community. 

“These private companies need to be regulated. The state needs to give the local authority to have data and regulation over these private companies so that we can understand the impact that it’s having,” said Wu.

Uber said it is well aware of the concern put forth by critics with the rollout of the new tool for drivers and say they worry has not been realized. 

“Over the years, ridesharing has improved access to transportation for many people who previously struggled to get a reliable ride to and from their homes, simply because of where they lived. That’s why we have been closely monitoring the impact of recent product changes we’ve made in California due to a new state law. So far, we have seen no indication that drivers are accepting trips to disadvantaged areas any less frequently than other areas because of this change, but we are keeping a close eye as these changes roll out more fully across the state.”