Uber and the phantom cabs

The next time your Uber app promises you a cab in seconds, do cross check

Sonal Desai
New Update

MUMBAI, INDIA: The next time your Uber app promises you a cab in seconds, do cross check.


The taxi hailing company is displaying cabs on the Uber app, when in reality there is none. In short, it is deceiving customers into believing a fleet of Uber cabs is available on their street; the only problem is the live map the company shows may actually be fake!!!

A new report from Motherboard reveals that Uber actually fills your map with phantom cabs, though the reason is not yet clear.

In a research on how Uber drivers interact with the Uber app, funded by Microsoft FUSE Labs, researchers found drivers across multiple forums discussed the fake cars they saw on their own residential streets. One driver, who makes regular broadcasts advising drivers about using the Uber system, even made a YouTube video to show other drivers how the app sometimes displays cars that aren’t there.


Some drivers on the forums noted that it could be a 30 to 60 second lag in the system that causes the number of cars to be misrepresented, but others said they regularly saw a group of phantom cars wherever the passenger pin was placed.

“The app is simply showing there are partners on the road at the time. 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,” Uber replied in an email to Motherboard.

“I know this seems a 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 screen saver on a computer. Once a rider request a trip there will be actual information about the partners location showing up in the app," the spokesperson wrote to Motherboard.


The incident and the study reflect the pressure on the services, especially consumer-centric industry segments to stay one-up against the competition. But such incidents do create a negative impression besides the bad press; not to forget the competitive sharks waiting on the pedal to take your customer away.

There is possibly a thin line between what is acceptable and to what extent can an enterprise promise a customer the moon!

Do you think Uber's strategy was the right one? What are you doing to retain customers?

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