Uber to cap trip pricing during major emergencies

September 27, 2018 10:56
A woman tries to hail a cab in New York during a snowstorm. To facilitate transportation during crises, ride-hailing giant Uber is capping the trip pricing in times of major emergencies. Photo: Reuters

Uber is making changes to its disaster response guidelines in a bid to ensure that its ride-hailing services respond in an appropriate manner in the event of a crisis like a hurricane or a terror attack.

The company's Global Security Center (GSC) will monitor conditions in every area that Uber operates, and coordinate responses 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making decisions on when to suspend service in an area or whether to cap surge pricing, Uber said in a blog post this week.

By changing its crisis response playbook, Uber switched from its "local-first" approach to centralizing and detailing the company’s global emergency approach and protocol.

The GSC will monitor and flag issues that may affect the Uber business and the communities in which it operates.

The GSC is made up of individuals with expertise in security, emergency policy, and disaster management who speak a dozen different languages. It will coordinate disaster response with local Uber staff and city, county or state officials.

The entity will cap trip and surge pricing in the event of an emergency, and refund charges that may have gone through before the crisis was recognized.

"We will review situations where unintended charges might have occurred during an emergency and work to refund them,” said the company. If a disaster is occurring and the caps have not gone into effect, riders can report conditions directly through the Uber app.

Uber will also work with emergency management agencies and local government stakeholders, and communicate to users through the Uber apps about dangerous conditions or service suspension.

As it centralizes its disaster relief efforts, the ride-hailing giant has also established an assistance fund with resources set aside for free rides to shelters, meals for first responders, transportation for volunteers, and other relief measures.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 27

Translation by Ben Ng with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal