The subject of racism has become an issue on the platforms of some of the Bay Area’s best tech companies, and experts say the business models of the “sharing economy” could keep startups from addressing the issue. Based my own personal experiences as both an Uber and Lyft driver, this revelation is quite shocking.
Multiple reports have tracked racial discrimination in car-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. In addition, home-rental sites like Airbnb are guilty of being a part of a growing body of research finding bias among contractors and hosts. While the racism may be brought on an individual basis, experts argue that the independent-contractor model of the sharing economy enables it, and that these cases could force these unicorn startups to dramatically change their business models if they try to address it. This a serious issue that the sharing economy needs to address.
The most recent study, which collected data from close to 1,500 app-hailed trips in Seattle and Boston, found that African-American customers using ride-hailing apps faced longer acceptance times. The time before the driver accepts a passenger’s ride request—and longer wait times after being accepted on Uber specifically. The findings mirror a study on Airbnb that found greater discrimination against guests who had names typically thought to belong to African-Americans. Hopefully, this is something that gets resolved soon. Racism and discrimination are serious injustices that should not be taken lightly.