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Speaker: Confessions of an Uber Driver III: How do I rate?

266 Responses

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  • BenWilson,


    As a side note, riders would also appear to have a very different standard as well. Here’s a 3.73 happily still riding.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    As a side note, riders would also appear to have a very different standard as well. Here’s a 3.73 happily still riding.

    Huh. What sort of a dick do you have to be to get a low mean like that?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 21721 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Don’t know. I’ve never given a passenger anything less than a 5. I probably should have written about that. There is a huge inequity in the fact that a driver has to rate the passenger immediately before they can even be available for other trips. Very often the passenger will sit there watching you doing it.

    But the passengers can rate you any time they like. Up to months later. So even if they don’t watch you, if they see their rating go down an hour later, guess what they’re likely to do? Downrate you. And guess who that little battle hurts more? Ask Sreeman.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen R,

    Much as I understand that Uber has some things going for it, I wouldn't be sad to see these fuckers banned from New Zealand for shit like this.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 239 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Russell,

    Uber seem to specialise in being dicks to drivers. My guess is that they are banking on not needing any at all once driverless cars hit critical mass.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2008 • 77 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    It’s possible Uber don’t actually have a fixed criterion score as such for each area, but rather a fixed number of drivers to be kept in active service, with drivers ranked below that number dumped each month, regardless of absolute average rating – so it’s a churn mechanism for their pyramid scheme of sign-ups.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1505 posts Report Reply

  • Elpie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    You don't have to be a dick at all. I doubt many Uber drivers will admit it publicly but those that can't risk refusing passengers with wheelchairs tend to rate the passenger really low. I've watched it happen to a guy. With his wheelchair he routinely got 1 or 2, without he never had lower than 5. A driver explained that he was concerned about damage to his car boot from carrying wheelchairs. Another said disabled people take too long getting in and out. So, you don't have to be a dick, you just need to be someone they don't want to transport.

    Since Sep 2016 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Elpie,

    That's disgusting but unsurprising. Thanks for dropping in.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19158 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Nick Russell,

    My guess is that they are banking on not needing any at all once driverless cars hit critical mass.

    That is many years away, for legal rather than technical reasons.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19158 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Elpie,

    Yet another unintended consequence of a rating system. Presumably Uber gives him a free pass to have a low rating because of his special needs?

    I doubt I'd use Uber if I was disabled, although the price is probably as compelling for anyone else. Regular taxi services are much better at dealing with exceptions like this. Ubering really is predicated around fitting into a plain vanilla service and being quick about it. They're getting paid stuff all. The justification is the amazing efficiency. The flipside of that is it requires passengers to also be efficient for the service to be even barely viable. So I'm not surprised a wheelchair bound passenger is not liked. When your job is barely a living, it sure feels rich when people expect you to run it like a charity.

    The sad thing is that there are so few disabled passengers that it could have been a really easy win for Uber to just give them an extra pump by paying the driver a little bit more. Instead, their uberASSIST service routinely just costs the drivers money. But this failing isn't hung on Uber, because their marketing machine is the bomb, and drivers are easy pariahs. One step up from beneficiaries, it would seem.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I do agree, though, that downrating a disabled passenger is very unfair. That's what anonymous rating systems are like. They're a system that allows prejudice free reign to coexist with genuine grievances.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Sacha,

    That is many years away, for legal rather than technical reasons.

    I'd say for legal as well as technical reasons. People who have actually taken these riding with a critical eye have realized that they're not even nearly driverless when they frequently require a person to intervene by driving. That's not a system that can take people who are too young, or too drunk, or unlicensed to drive. It's not a system that can drive itself around empty to deliver you your Uber. You can't drop off to sleep, or read a book. Essentially, the person sitting in the drivers seat behind the wheel is still in control of the vehicle. It's going to have it's place, but it's got a long way to go before it's much of a worry to Uber drivers.

    Especially since Uber drivers are seldom concerned beyond a few months window ahead anyway. They're all looking for another job already, just because of how it is now, let alone how it might be when the endlessly promised future does actually arrive. But given how ubiquitous robot workers aren't even in industries where robots have been well established for decades, I really doubt that even if they get something that can autonomously drive, that it will really be that cost effective or popular except as an add on in your own car.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • Roger Balantyne,

    I have never used Uber and don't plan too. Why should we join in a race to the bottom where winning means workers are placed in a position they cannot hope to improve?. Taxi drivers are the thin end of the wedge on this issue. Accountants are next (replaced by xero) and lawyers won't be far behind. Better start thinking about that living wage before you need it!

    Wellington • Since Sep 2016 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    ratings is not so strange when you consider it

    Yes it is! Its a completely fucked way of considering another human performing a task. Jeez just make it forlock tugs and the number of times the driver has to say 'Yessum masta" during the trip and be done with it.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1591 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Kathryn Ryan just interviewed me on our impending dispute.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • steve black,

    Nice interview Ben.

    The whole use of ratings would seem to be an over reliance on flawed measurements and bogus analysis being used to replace sensible human management strategies. A black box algorithm is no substitute for thoughtful insight. If Uber doesn't get that then they may well launch into driverless cars too early and suffer the legal and technical consequences.

    Good luck with the Disputes Tribunal.

    sunny mt albert • Since Jan 2007 • 114 posts Report Reply

  • James Green,

    What is an average score? Normally, when the scale is from 1 to 5, the average score would be 3.

    I think there is quite a bit of evidence that that is not how humans use rating scales. Typically, scores below the midpoint are off limit, and so "average" is actually halfway between the midpoint and the top. The midpoint then actually means bad. And less than the midpoint is abjectly terrible. This ranges from most education assessments (sub 50% is a fail, and the average is usually in the 70s) to wine (Cuisine don't give out below 3 stars; Robert Parker doesn't go below 50).

    But these conventions make it easy for people to break them to make a point, with the very negative consequences you've outlined. Perhaps Uber should discard all ratings under 3, or use them in a qualitatively different fashion*. Also, Uber is US based, and there is plenty of evidence that people from the US skew much further to the top of the scale, which will shape their expectations.

    *The geek in me thinks that one way to better deal with this data would be to have a random effect for passenger in the model (so that a passenger's rating is adjusted for both the passenger's mean rating and distribution). Actually there is a whole lot of quite sensible stuff you could do with this, though you'd have to be careful you didn't model out real variation (eg, discounting negative feedback from a passenger who'd found a driver racist/sexist, when the driver otherwise had excellent feedback).

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 703 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to James Green,

    This is why I suggested that evaluating how appropriate the rating system is depends on what you think the purpose of it is. If it's to find out who the good and bad drivers are, it's not very good. But if the purpose is to make drivers work harder for less pay, then it's very effective.Which is most likely why in the many years Uber has been operating this system has remained the same. It's purpose is not fairness, and it never has been.

    I wrote this blog to show this point. I'd love lots of discussions about how it could be fairer, of course. But I don't think that any of it would be news to the designers of the Uber setup. The way it works is the end result of conscious decisions made by very clever people. So you have to assume that the outcomes that it achieves are deliberately designed into it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Elpie,

    A look at how app based ride sourcing has worked out for the disabled in Philadelphia.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • goforit,

    Hi Ben, very interesting reading. its amazing how some people just twists things around to suit them selves, its very easy to use some regulations and reject the ones that don't suit.
    When you open up this conversation you descibe Uber and drivers as a taxi service, keep the facts correct Uber and its drivers operated an unlicensed taxi service and as such should not even be there in the first place, if it was licensed as an ATO under the law things would be very different, even internal rules of an ATO need to be approved by the licensing authority.
    You agreed to the way Uber treats you when you signed up and I understand where you come from when the reality of what you signed up to hits home, you do have the choice of no longer working for them and if you wants to be a taxi driver just follow the regulations as I am sure any ATO would accept you.

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 309 posts Report Reply

  • goforit, in reply to Elpie,

    You don't have to be a dick at all

    This is another con set up by Uber, Uber has given the impression it is disabled person friendly by offering uberASSIST this of course gives the impression it is set up in the area of disable transport. Taxi operators who operated under the banner of offering disable transport must have wheelchair accessible vehicles within there fleets. Uber only carries disable persons up to a certain level of disability so uberASSIST is misleading, Anyway with careful handling most wheel chairs will fit into a standard car without damage to the car.

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 309 posts Report Reply

  • goforit,

    I see another prospective driver from your group as well as the one trying to get sasifaction from the Dispute Tribunal is telling the world his woes through Scoop NZ. The fact it has taken over 6 months to be approved from the NZTA just indicates he must have experienced problems with his application and hopefully now are sorted.

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 309 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to goforit,

    I'd like to dedicate a whole post to uberASSIST at some point, since this is a forum with a long history of advocacy for the disabled. One of the main headings is dedicated to it, the Access column. The overall co-ordinator of Public Address has special needs children, as do I. It's too big a topic to leave solely to thread comments. We should certainly talk about it beforehand but bearing in mind that this topic can and will get individual treatment.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to goforit,

    Yes, I don't think the delays are due to any extra slowness or care on NZTA's part. More that he got his P endorsement first, and then applied for his PSL. Delays in the appointments for courses and tests precede all the formal applications. TSL tests are particularly choked up since the step up in enforcement.

    I think he didn't pipeline them because he was concerned that he could easily pay twice as much and then be tripped up at the P endorsement phase, at which point the PSL application would fail. So I believe, anyway, and that was probably overly cautious - I think you can hold a PSL without a P endorsement. But his thinking was "what would be the point?". PSLs only exist nowadays as bureaucratic stepping stone for the P endorsed to form an "organization" that has only them in it, just so they can drive for their own private hire service. He couldn't use a PSL for anything else but to be a driver himself.

    Also, like so many Uber drivers, it's not the only thing he does, he has a business to run, and Ubering is only intended to be a stop gap.

    I don't think the letter is about "his woes". Its primarily about the question of whether Uber is doing any checks whatsoever about the right of its drivers to work in this country. We've had a number of reports that students, and even people who are just here on holiday, are driving for Uber. If all you need is a driver's license....

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10277 posts Report Reply

  • goforit, in reply to BenWilson,

    Why make a fuss of the process if he has drawn out the process, or maybe he was given bad information on the processes involved in the first place, sort of the blind leading the blind. Now back to the problem of what Uber driver's think of there own noncompliant organisation dishing out kangaroo justice to there drivers who should not be working for a unlicensed taxi service in the first place. How can you ask for justice from the NZ Justice Department through the court system when the whole Uber organisation including the drivers don't even comply to the laws of this country.

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 309 posts Report Reply

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