Uber squashes claims of “phantom cars” on app

Uber has shut down rumours that its ride-sharing app misleads users by showing “phantom cars”.

The app, which lets passengers find nearby taxi drivers, displays Uber cars in the local area of a user.

However, a recent claim by researchers Alex Rosenblat and Luke Stark in a Vice Motherboard article suggests that Uber shows cars that don’t actually exist on the app.

The article cites anecdotal evidence from drivers and passengers, suggesting that the app was showing cars in an area when there weren’t any.

The report goes on to claim an Uber representative said the app “is simply showing that there are partners on the road at the time”.

The rep reportedly continued: “This is not a representation of the exact numbers of drivers or their location. This is more of a visual effect, letting people know that partners are searching for fares. I know this seems misleading to you but it is meant as more of a visual effect more than an accurate location of drivers in the area. It would be better of you to think of this as a screensaver on a computer.

Speaking to the Guardian today however, an Uber UK representative has squashed the claims.

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“Our goal is for the number of cars and their location to be as accurate as possible in real time,” the spokesperson explained.

“Latency is one reason this is not always possible. Another reason is that the app only shows the nearest eight cars to avoid cluttering the screen. Also, to protect the safety of drivers, in some volatile situations, the app doesn’t show the specific location of individual cars until the ride is requested.”

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Earlier today, we reported that Uber UK is now facing legal action over claims that it doesn’t provide its drivers with basic workers’ rights.

The legal action is being handled by law firm Leigh Day, acting on behalf of the GMB trade union.

Do you think everyone’s being too hard on Uber, or does the ride-sharing firm have it coming? Let us know in the comments.