Peeking beneath the hood of Uber

Recently, Uber has emerged as a leader in the "sharing economy" . Uber is a "ride sharing" service that matches willing drivers with customers looking for rides. However, unlike other open marketplaces (e.g., AirBnB), Uber is a black-box: they do not provide data about supply or demand, and prices are set dynamically by an opaque "surge pricing" algorithm. The lack of transparency has led to concerns about whether Uber artificially manipulate prices, and whether dynamic prices are fair to customers and drivers. In order to understand the impact of surge pricing on passengers and drivers, we present the first in-depth investigation of Uber. We gathered four weeks of data from Uber by emulating 43 copies of the Uber smartphone app and distributing them throughout downtown San Francisco (SF) and midtown Manhattan. Using our dataset, we are able to characterize the dynamics of Uber in SF and Manhattan, as well as identify key implementation details of Uber's surge price algorithm. Our observations about Uber's surge price algorithm raise important questions about the fairness and transparency of this system.


Access the Research publication

Peeking beneath the hood of Uber
Chen, L., Mislove, A. and Wilson, C. (2015), ‘Peeking beneath the hood of Uber’, in Internet Measurement Conference, IMC'15, October 28-30, 2015 Tokyo, Japan.


  • Research publication, Case study-platform
  • United States
  • Yes
  • transport
  • On-location platform-determined routine work
  • Uber
  • algorithm, autonomy and control
  • English
  • Internet Measurement Conference (Publisher)
  • Quantitative research
  • 2015
  • Subscription
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