The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
In response to the public call put out by the FTC for consultation on various aspects of ridesharing business practices and how they impact consumers, businesses and employee/contractors, we chose to focus on one of the most contentious issues that afflicts ridesharing operations - reputation systems and trust mechanisms. We are a group of academics and drivers employed in the ridesharing industry as independent contractors, seeking to make a collective representation to the FTC on the existing problems with the design of interactions within mobile applications of services such as Uber and Lyft but not limited to them. We conducted a survey to source responses from ridesharing drivers within the United States. We present a brief summary of the responses, key issues highlighted and changes suggested by the driver community in the designs of ridesharing platforms. Due to lack of space, this section contains highlights of our comments. The complete analysis and list of recommendations has been attached with this application for your perusal. We have consolidated the responses along four verticals: 1) biases in the reputation system 2) passenger understanding of the reputation system 3) effectiveness of the reputation system 4) driver suggestions to mend the reputation system Bias in reputation systems: From over 115 responses received from across the United States, most drivers have identified "Lack of Awareness" as the biggest problem affecting transactions in Uber, Lyft and other ridesharing platforms. The second biggest problem drivers face while maintaining ratings is illegality because passengers often insist on seating more people than allowed or carrying open alcohol containers in the car. Drivers also get rated low if they refuse to drive minors around without adult supervision. Passenger understanding of reputation: In the same survey, when asked how well passengers understand the rating system, most drivers responded by saying "not well" or "not at all". They also added that since rating every ride is not mandatory for the passenger, many passengers, if they are in a hurry or sleepy or drunk, forget to or avoid rating. Similarly, for passengers who did not have exceptionally good or bad experiences, there is a lower incentive to rate. Drivers only get anonymized rating reports at the end of the day. This makes it difficult to seek feedback on, improve their service or understand what went wrong. Effectiveness of ratings as reputation measure When asked to rate the effectiveness of ratings in terms of promoting trust within ridesharing businesses, 47% drivers rated them as 1 (implying very poor), 18% rated them as 2 (poor), 20% rated them as 3 (average) and the rest 17% rated them as 4 or 5 (implying good or very good). The issue that surfaces from the biases listed above is that Uber and Lyft ratings are failing to produce a reliable measurement of the actual quality of driving.