Uber has shaken up what it takes to get from point A to point B in cities across the country with a simple premise: If you need a ride, a driver nearby could pick you up within minutes.
Behind that idea is an algorithm, which promises to keep supply and demand in constant balance, encouraging drivers toward busy areas and tempering customer requests by increasing the price of each ride. It’s calledsurge pricing.
Those who have used Uber know that surge pricing is a temperamental beast. It changes quickly, varies seemingly unpredictably and has gotten heat fromconsumers, regulators and even drivers themselves. Uber says without surge pricing, the whole premise of a ride in minutes falls apart when there’s a crush of demand.
But how exactly does Uber’s algorithm work? The company doesn’t say. A team of researchers at Northeastern University decided to find out by doing what they call “algorythmic auditing.”
They found that for customers, it pays to be patient — or to walk a few blocks to a less crowded area.
Images: Courtesy of Christo Wilson