Franken pushes Uber, Lyft after discrimination study

Franken pushes Uber, Lyft after discrimination study

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenMeet the Democrats' last best hope of preserving a House majority Franken rules out challenge against Gillibrand for Senate seat Franken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour MORE (D-Minn.) is putting pressure on Uber and Lyft over allegations of racial discrimination on the platform.

On Wednesday afternoon, Franken sent a letter to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and his Lyft counterpart, Logan Green, in response to a study that purports to show examples of racial discrimination in ride-hailing.
“Ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft have the potential to offer consumers relief from discrimination and destination bias, and have already shown great promise by increasing travel options within underserved neighborhoods,” Franken said.

“But as app based driving services reshape the transportation industry, it is essential that companies ensure technology does not give cover to bias, whether intentional or unconscious.”

His letter follows a study, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, that found that people with “black sounding names” could be more likely to face delays and, in some cases, cancellations, than users with “white sounding names.”

Franken also raised concerns with an element of a study that found that drivers took women on longer drives.

“New and emerging technologies have the potential to break down barriers, but we must work to ensure that these advances expand the horizons of all Americans,” he said.

Uber confirmed that it had received the letter and that it planned to respond.

“Discrimination has no place in society, and no place on Uber,” said Rachel Holt, head of Uber’s North American operations, in a statement issued in response to the study. “We believe Uber is helping reduce transportation inequities across the board, but studies like this one are helpful in thinking about how we can do even more.”
Lyft also said that it valued the study.
"We welcome a discussion about the impact we have on communities of color," said a spokesman in a statement. "By providing dramatically better transportation options to underserved areas, we have improved the quality of life of millions of Americans. We intend to use this opportunity to jumpstart a dialogue within the Lyft community on these issues."
The discussion of the study comes amid an ongoing debate about discrimination on platforms in the so-called on-demand economy. Airbnb, for example, recently undertook an effort to fight racial discrimination on its platform after users banded around the #AirbnbWhileBlack hashtag to share stories of the difficulties they’d faced finding lodging through the service.
— Updated at 12:15 p.m.