Taken for a ride!

The map below might look “creatively sketched” by some 5-year old kid but it’s actually for an Uber ride I had taken in Mumbai recently. The cab didn’t go mad on the streets to create this kind of trace but was only stuck in traffic for way too long. A 2-km ride was billed for 9.96 km. Luckily, I checked the receipt and complained to Uber.

There have been lot of conversations going around the debate on the use of GPS vs Traditional meters for billing (calculating distance) in taxi apps. You may have heard about unconfirmed reports around government trying to enforce meters . States have their own freedom to formulate policy for app based aggregators and in Delhi digital meters have been installed in Cabs (more:[2] [3]), while Karnataka is considering it as well.

You must have seen (or been among them!) netizens bashing the government for its regressive steps on why are they asking for meters when GPS suffices.

“It was brought to our notice that there were variations in GPS readings, depending on mobile data availability and strength,” the official said.

This specific ride changed my perception as well. I can be overcharged by a GPS meter as well, though it’s not equivalent to meter rigging but raises questions over the accuracy of the system. Potentially every ride can have a small mess in the map and distance would be off by a significant margin. 
According to [4],

Standards dictate that the GPS meters not overestimate distance by more than one percent or underestimate by more than four percent.
Let’s hope we are not being taken for a ride by technology instead of the driver!

Uber did refund me the money on checking the issue but the kind of trust we have with technology these days, it might be difficult to check every ride unless its some extremely weird thing like when Ola charged INR 83,000 for a ride

The response from Uber did acknowledge issues with GPS.

“It looks like the fare is different than you expected due to a GPS issue, which also explains why the map in your receipt might look a bit off. Since fares are based on the distance and time recorded by GPS data in your driver’s app, technical errors can occasionally lead to inaccurate fares. We’re always working on improving the app and our GPS technology, so I’m glad you pointed this one out to us.”

Debates on this have been going on across the world. 
USA: Lyft app not approved, NYC to get GPS meters pilot
Europe: Uber wins high court ruling in UK

For someone concerned about the meter fare, they can use Meter for Uber app to get realtime info about the cost of their ride.

This is just one issue among the likes of surge pricing, offers, driver incentives, safety etc which the taxi/cab industry stakeholders have to address in tandem with regulators.

#GPS #Technology #Uber #OlaCabs #Meru #Taxi #Cabs #Accuracy #Meters

Like what you read? Give Ravi Sethia a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.