An investigation by The New York Times about the tools impact drivers who use the Uber to encourage them to work more. Faced with challenges on several fronts, the leaders of the company Uber has addressed to journalists, having told about changes in corporate culture. In addition, they announced their intention to improve relations with drivers who had complained for years that falling incomes and disrespectful treatment.
“However, despite the intention to treat drivers more humane Uber using the science of behavior holds an incredible secret experiment to manipulate them for the sake of the companys growth”, — writes the author of The New York Times Noam Scheiber, with reference to the words “several dozen present and former company representatives, drivers and experts in the field of social Sciences”. In his opinion, the innovations reflect the companys change in methods of management employees used by the company in connection with the distribution of “economy undermining” is based on the work of freelancers.
The drivers are independent entrepreneurs, who decide how much and when they work, without reference to the chart. This allows Uber to minimize labour costs, but reduces the ability to control the number of taxis on the line.
“To resolve this fundamental problem, the company uses psychological incentives and other techniques from the Arsenal of the social Sciences to influence when, where and how long drivers. To find the balance between passenger demand, supply of drivers and to minimize costs for the company and its customers is a major challenge for Uber,” writes Scheiber. That drivers work longer and in less profitable areas, Uber is experimenting with techniques from video games, graphics and intangible bonuses.
In addition, the company uses the tendency of some people to establish the scope of the minimum wage, and if the drivers try to exit the application, then it comes to notice that to achieve the daily goals they need to fulfill some more orders. For this, the author writes The New York Times, the company has hired hundreds of professionals in the field of social Sciences and data analysis. “For example, Uber is an algorithm that reminds one of the functions of the Netflix service. It automatically starts the next video and, according to some experts, provokes the movies “avidly”.
In the case of Uber drivers receive the next order before the previous”. According to a representative from Uber, Michael Amodeo, drivers go on the line voluntarily, without coercion. “We show them areas of high demand or encourage them to work more.
But any driver can finish the job just with the push of a button. And it is completely his decision.”. According to the author the New York Times, Uber uses such mechanisms are active in other, but and other platforms from the scope of the “economy undermining” — taxi service Lyft and grocery delivery service Postmates — applied the similar mechanisms of psychological motivations.
“Of course, many companies are using psychological tricks trying to lure buyers to buy their products and use their services. But the use of such techniques against employees can change everything radically,” writes Scheiber. Not without reason in the US there was a thick set of laws and customs [protection of labour], because employers have much more power over their employees than customers.
Therefore, the law guarantees them protection — at least minimum wage or overtime pay. According to the author the New York Times, terms of law and ethics at Uber operates in a “grey zone”. “Since drivers are individual entrepreneurs, they dont get most of the work guarantees put to staff. This returns us to the era before the “New Course” of Roosevelt, when the companies had almost unlimited power over the workers”.
“Were talking about manipulation, which affects the income of people. The leaders of the Uber uses information about the drivers, the ability to control and change the interface, and financial stimulants to influence the drivers behaviour to the extent where they need it,” — said the Professor of law at the University of Washingtons Ryan Calo, who studies how companies use data and algorithms for the exploitation of psychological vulnerabilities of people.
Although the company is constantly increasing the states drivers to meet the growing demand of passengers, growth of the company threatened by the high turnover, which can lead to a crisis. According to the author The New York Times one of the reasons of outflow of the drivers — the discrepancy between their personal interests and the interests of the company. Since Uber takes a quarter of the revenues from each order, drivers are interested in to the line out as little as possible competitors.
“Uber also requires that the lines worked as many drivers to the ideal customer received the car in five minutes after the order,” he writes. When the number of drivers on the line drops, Uber introduces incentive factors that increase the cost of the trip, but it repels passengers and contrary to the long-term strategy for Uber to become an industry leader. “Of course, we should abandon the rates — so we should be able to increase the inflow of customers”, — says Vice-President of product Daniel Graf Uber.
As a result, the communication of the company with the drivers were aimed at overcoming “sagging”. The application indicated, in which part of the city where they arise and may arise in the near future. “In addition, Uber has encouraged local managers to experiment and find your promotion strategy drivers”, — writes the author of The New York Times.
“Every day I received many messages, emails and notifications, like “Hello. The city began the morning rush. Go to this part of the city, where demand is higher”.
The app is constantly trying to push you in a certain direction,” says the Uber driver from Chicago ed Frantzen. According to the author The New York Times, some local managers-the men began to subscribe a female name, when he discovered that it increases the impact on drivers.
“Conditional “Laura” wrote something like. “Hey, soon there will be over a gig. Can you go see it?” We had a large number of men-drivers,” — said the former Manager of Uber in Dallas John Parker.
Representatives of the company acknowledged that indeed experimented with writing reports on behalf of women, to increase the interest to travel from the drivers-men. In addition, the discontent of drivers caused high tariffs on Uber car leasing.
As the author notes The New York Times, many drivers had to work 50-60 hours a week in order to beat the cost. “Representatives of the company began to worry that the discontent of the drivers will refuse strategic disadvantage to Uber in competition with the service Lyft, whose reputation in the eyes of the drivers were better”. In the result, Uber has changed the terms of the leasing program has softened the tone of messages and limited their volume.
In addition, the company discovered that many drivers in the novice left the system without completing 25 travel required to receive the bonus. To stop the outflow, some regional branches of the company began to experiment with simple rewards. “Congratulations, youre almost there, keep it up.”. “Pleasant and harmless treatment of actually — well-thought-experiment.
Experts on data analysis company found that after the 25th order, the outflow of drivers is rapidly declining. Psychologists, video game designers long ago figured out that a simple encouragement motivates people to do the job,” writes Scheiber. “Promotion help turn company objectives into goals.
And motivation based on internal goals is a very powerful thing,” says opposes motive psychological techniques in games game designer Chelsea Howe. According to a representative from Uber, Michael Amodeo, the company is trying to make the experience of using the service for new drivers “possible and realistic”. “We want people drew conclusions that suited them driving [with Uber] or not”.
According to the author The New York Times, experiments puts Uber and rival company Lyft. In 2013, the service hired a consulting company to figure out how to encourage drivers to come on line during high demand.
Drivers can choose which shift to work. “The consultants conducted an experiment. Choosing the change ones drivers-the newcomers have seen that if they come during peak demand — for example, on Friday night, you can earn $15 per hour more. Others — that, if released in a quieter time, you will get $15 per hour less,” writes Scheiber.
As a result, drivers of the second group are more willing to choose the shift into a more stressful time. One of the representatives of the consulting company Kristen Berman explained in 2014 that the roots of this experiment are hiding in behavioral Economics. People increasingly prefer to avoid losses than to acquire gains.
However, in an interview with the author of The New York Times Kristen Berman said that the company abandoned this approach in working with drivers, suggesting that the technique seemed Lyft guide “potential manipulation”. Noam Scheiber describes an incident that happened with a driver named Josh Streeter. He went to work in the new years eve 31 Dec 2015.
When in the morning we decided to go with the line and pressed the button “exit the application”, the screen appeared a notification. “You have only $10 to $330. Do you want to quit?”. “Ive got a dozen screenshots of such notices,” said Streeter.
He worked full time as a driver in Lyft, and since 2014 — in Uber, but in 2016 dropped and started to invest in real estate. “The case is not unique Stratera. The drivers tell us that when you exit the app frequently reminds them that they have a certain amount or from the amount of income in comparison with the same day last week,” writes the author of The New York Times.
These messages exploit the common behavioral characteristic of people who love to set goals, encouraging them to spend more driving time. Over the last 20 years researchers in the field of behavioral Economics has discovered a phenomenon called the “target earnings” which occurs when the worker is able to determine the schedule of work.
For example, taxi drivers go to the line after you earn a certain amount. According to top managers of Uber and Lyft, many drivers companies really set the standard minimum wage. “Someone motivated to earn a certain amount. You hear stories about people who love to buy again and again.
We gave drivers the opportunity to set goals in the app,” — said Vice-President of Lyft Brian Xu. In 2016, Uber has published statistics about the behavior of drivers, finding that “a significant part” novice drivers is fixed at a minimum amount of earnings. However, over time they from daily financial goals.
“A fixation on a certain amount of earnings per day is inefficient, since it leads to the fact that the driver has to work a lot in those days, when few orders, and soon to leave the line at peak hours,” writes the author of the New York Times. According to Noam Saber to notice Uber worked, drivers do not have to be fixed at the minimum daily amount as they fall into the “game loop” that encourages them to earn more.
“Company notice under stylized image of the speedometer, where the arrow almost touches the division of stylized dollar sign. And this is not the only technique that the company borrowed from video games, not to release the drivers,” writes Scheiber. In addition, at any time, drivers can see how many orders they have completed this week, how much money is earned, how long they stayed in the app, and what is the average score of passengers received.
“All of these metrics can encourage rivalry and obsessive desire to stay in the game,” writes the author of the New York Times. “App like a game,” says an experienced driver Uber and Lyft from Chicago Eli Solomon. According to him, sometimes he had to fight the urge to continue to fulfill the orders, after he was looking at his stats.
In the application, there are achievements and graphic images that are “issued” for certain actions. High marks from passengers, the number of kilometers traveled, and so on.
According to the founder of analyst and consulting firm Supernova Group Kevin Werbach, “economy undermining” gamification can be used for good — if it helps to establish a bond between employees that do not intersect in a disconnected space, and harm. “In this case, you seem to tell people. “We came up with a cheap way to force you to do the work, we will not raise your salary, but shall issue badges that we are worth nothing”. Thats manipulation”.
As an example of the negative effects of gamification on drivers the author of The New York Times brings the story of Scott Weber, who in 2016 worked at Uber and Lyft full time and earned less than $20 thousand, excluding fuel expenses and maintenance. “I had a business where I suffered losses,” he says. Now, Weber is looking for another job, and periodically borrows money.
“But when I asked him about the rewards of Uber, he began to boast that he has 12 badges for the great service and nine for a good conversation with passengers,” writes the author of The New York Times. According to the author, even those changes that slightly change the patterns of driving, can be very important for Uber. The increase in the number of drivers in the popular area of the city by 20% can lead to lower rates and revenue drivers, according to a former Manager of Uber in Dallas John Parker.
“What is more important, some of the psychological levers used by Uber to increase the number of drivers on the line have very powerful effects,” says the author of The New York Times.
As an example, he cites an algorithm called “order”, which is used by Uber, Lyft. Thanks to the algorithm a new order for a driver arrives before he completed the old. “This reduces the waiting time for a passenger who does not need to wait 10 minutes before arrival free of driver where the nearest driver can be freed in two minutes,” writes Scheiber. Algorem encourages drivers to stay longer on the line, especially during periods of peak load is a key goal for both companies.
“Drivers tell us that for them there is nothing worse than waiting. If there is a long time, they go out of the app, so we wish that they had permanent employment,” — said the Director of product Lyft Kevin Feng.
According to the author The New York Times, this assertion is difficult to argue. However, he insists that the algorithm reduces self-control drivers. “The most similar example is the Netflix algorithm that starts auto-play next video”.
“There is nothing easier than to watch videos for the video without stopping. It is much harder to get out of this state”, wrote, in 2015, Matthew Pittman and Kim Sheehan, who studied this phenomenon. As viewers, many drivers like the “auto-order”.
Thanks to the functions of their employment and earnings increases, writes the author of The New York Times. “But it might work against their interests, at the expense of increasing the number of drivers on line, with lower coefficients”. According to representatives of Uber, the introduction of functions has led to the fact that the drivers began to suffer from “syndrome avid serialopen” — inability to stop even in the shower.
Amid criticism, the company was forced to implement the function of the suspension of the auto. “The drivers complained that they can safely exit the application, because it constantly receives orders. This created problems, so we changed the.
Now in the middle of one trip, the driver may refuse to order the following. This gives them more control over situations,” says a top Manager of Uber on tools for drivers Maya Cocci. According to the author The New York Times innovations have not been sufficiently effective, because the driver has to cancel the order every time.
In Netflix, for example, AutoPlay can be turned on and off in the settings. “Sometimes the most important exhibited “default”. Due to the fact that people very often inert, the automatic subscription to retirement savings with a choice of options turns out better than the opportunity to choose to subscribe to the plan, or not.
When “default” modify application settings, works the same effect,” says Scheiber. “If done right, it is for the benefit of society. However, some manipulations associated with the choice, do not contribute to the welfare of the people”, — said the head of the Department of Economics at Harvard University and webuse a specialist in the field of behavioral Economics.
“The optimal settings, which we set to “default”, designed to do as much work, if any. Of course, you dont, but this setting is “default”,” — said the head of the research Department Uber Jonathan Hall.
“Of course, some platforms work for part-time work increase the ability of individuals to control working time, as is often noted, Uber representatives. Unlike most people, Uber drivers can work for a few hours each day. For example, in between how transported children to school and taking them back. Now the company is developing a feature that will allow drivers to note in your application where and to what time they will need to be, and algorithms will calculate the trip so that the driver had.
“There is a probability that as “growing up” of the online economy related to the work in his spare time, companies like Uber will adopt rules that will limit their ability to manipulate the employees with a cleverly designed proposals,” continues Scheiber.
According to the head of consulting company Beworks Kelly Peters, Ubers enough data to not only encourage drivers to work for half an hour longer, but also to monitor their health. For example, the company has access to such metrics as the acceleration and braking of the vehicle, which may indicate that the driver is overtired and he needs to rest. “The next step would be the introduction of the personalized notification, like.
“The last three passengers said they were scared on the road. Maybe we should take a break?””, says Peters. In some cities, Uber has already appeared a similar function. According to the author The New York Times, the time of maturity for Uber has not yet arrived, as the company builds relationships with drivers through a variety of ploys and manipulations.
For example, in 2017, Uber introduced a feature that using the Navigator directs drivers to areas where higher the chances of finding passengers and trips will be with higher odds.
“In practice, however, the coefficients remain the same often. Drivers think that using this feature Uber just moves them into a direction,” writes Scheiber. “Theyre trying to send people to where they need.
But when you come to the place, theres nothing there and this happens all the time,” says a former Uber driver Scott Weber. He also notes that the function is easier to use than to refuse, because the button consent much more, and is located in the center of the screen. Representatives of Uber, noted that it was an experiment to adapt the new drivers, who often complain that they cant find passengers.
According to the author The New York Times Uber the desire to control the behavior of drivers using psychological tricks is directly proportional to the needs of its business model. “Its no secret that Uber is investing in the creation of unmanned vehicles, but it will take another decade or more before they completely replace the drivers.
Until then, while the companys management focused on the growth and the increased number of passengers, it will be increasingly interested in improving the performance of drivers, but not their income,” — he said. It is obvious that the company will be interested in the fact that labour costs were as low as possible. Therefore, Uber drivers are not employees, and contractors, whom she forces to go on line in places and at a time where there is a demand. According to experts familiar with the situation in the field of passenger transport, lack of labour contracts with drivers reducing the direct costs to the company of 25%.
“It is easy to imagine a future where large digital platforms like Uber are going to be tens of millions of employees, not only drivers, but couriers. It is also easy to imagine that employers will force them to work, because their skills will not be sufficient for employment in more traditional areas,” — said the author of The New York Times.
In such circumstances, the use of big data and algorithms to control staff will not just be a niche phenomenon, but the most common method of management of labour resursami, says Professor of Economics at brown University David Weil. “You have players that fall into a certain space.
Assume that they are surrounded by a lot of people who are underpaid and they are trying to find a part time job. And we can control every nuance of their activities, but are not required to pay them. And something tells me that this is an area that will grow very quickly,” he continues.