The rideshare company revealed customers with dying smartphone batteries are more likely to accept surge pricing.
While Uber has been quite open about the fact that it uses surge pricing at times of top demand, such as New Year’s Eve, it could be that a portable phone charger might one day make the difference in whether or not a customer will be paying more.
The Uber mobile app is able to detect when a user’s smartphone battery life is low and how that impacts willingness to pay.
Uber has revealed that the mobile app for ordering a ride can track the battery life of the smartphone onto which it has been installed. It has also determined that customers have a greater willingness to accept surge pricing when their phones don’t have much more power left. Equally, it should be pointed out that the rideshare company has said that it does not use that information in order to apply surge pricing to the customer’s account. Still, with that important data available to the company, some have wondered whether the use of a portable phone charger could help to juice up a smartphone enough that it would be at a lower risk of surge pricing if Uber should change its policies.
A portable phone charger could increase the battery power and take the device out of the “more willing to accept” category.
The ride hailing service is able to detect the low power status of a smartphone because the mobile app is alerted when the smartphone switches to a power-saving mode. According to the head of economic research at Uber, Keith Chen, people who are running out of cell phone charger don’t have as much inclination to wait “10 to 15 minutes” in order to see if there is a decrease in the demand for drivers which would then cause the surge pricing to drop. The reason is that they are concerned that if their devices run out of battery, they won’t be able to hail a ride at all.
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With that risk ahead of them, they feel forced to be willing to pay more for their rides. According to a UCLA behavioral economist, customers using the smartphone app are willing to take on increases from surge pricing that are up to 9.9 times higher than the standard ride price if they see that their batteries have nearly run out of charge.
That said, as much as a portable phone charger may be handy in simply decreasing the stress from knowing that you’re running out of mobile battery charge, Chen has assured Uber users that this data is simply “an interesting kind of psychological fact of human behavior.” He has underscored that this knowledge will not be used to alter fares.