The answer to that is no… but they could.
Uber’s Head of Economic Research, Keith Chen, has revealed that the company’s app can detect when it’s preparing to go into power saving mode. This happens when a phone’s battery is running low, to conserve power. However, Uber don’t use this to set pricing – just yet.
Chen said that user behaviour studies show that Uber users are more willing to accept a ‘surge price’ up to 9.9 times the normal rate if their app is about to enter power-saving mode – indicating that they’re rushing to book a ride before the battery dies. “One of the strongest predictors of whether or not you’re going to be sensitive to surge is how much battery you have left on your cellphone. We absolutely don’t use that to push you a higher surge price, but it’s an interesting psychological fact of human behaviour” he said.
Uber’s surge pricing is often a point of contention for customers, but is what the company calls ‘a really integral part of our success’. During busy and peak periods, surge pricing sees the prices increase alongside demand. However, it can work out negatively for the business too – as they faced criticism over rising prices during a terrorist hostage crisis in Sydney, Australia.
When Uber first introduces surge pricing to a city, even a small jump in price to 1.2 times the normal rate is enough to discourage 27pc of potential customers from booking. However, cities with more established Uber services see a smaller 7pc reduction when this price rise kicks in, showing customers get used to the idea, Chen said.
Interestingly, the other psychological note that Mr Chen made from Uber’s studies was that passengers are more likely to buy a ride when the price is 2.1x the normal rate, as opposed to 2.0x – which resonates as ‘twice as expensive’.
Did you know that Uber could track your phone’s battery rate – and how do you feel about it? Would you pay more if your phone was about to run out of power? Let us know at @Liftshare!
Author Lex Barber