Uber Imposes Surge Pricing After Train Fatality: Is That Profiting From Death?

uberlogookayWhen there is a lot of demand for rides, the car-summoning app Uber imposes “surge” pricing, multiplying the standard fare. This serves to entice more drivers out onto the roads, and also to make some people looking for rides say, “eh, I’ll walk instead.” In the past, the company had promised not to raise prices excessively during emergencies that create high demand for rides, but not all situations that create intense demand are “emergencies.”

At 5:40 PM yesterday, a man was hit by a train and killed in Palo Alto. Authorities needed to investigate, and trains were delayed for an hour or more. People with somewhere to be tried to summon an Uber driver, only to find that the train delays had increased demand, and the increased demand raised prices for a ride. That led some commuters and PandoDaily to wonder: does that mean Uber and its drivers were profiting directly from a man’s death?

Depending on your point of view, surge pricing is either capitalism at work or price-gouging. When prices increased to seven or eight times the normal rate during a snowstorm in the Northeast, users accused Uber of price-gouging.

Earlier this year, Uber promised to cap surge pricing during states of emergency and natural disasters, donating its portion of the higher fares to the American Red Cross. This situation in Palo Alto wouldn’t count as a natural disaster, though. Neither would a baseball game or a concert, which could cause intense, temporary traffic snarls.

Uber seeing deja vu as riders complain of rate gouging following Caltrain fatality [PandoDaily]