Uber and Ola drivers in India have been canceling rides on long-distance travelers so often that it isn’t just the customers that are getting upset, but also the New Delhi government.
According to BuzzFeed, drivers are calling their riders ahead of accepting the trip request to find out their final destination. If they think the ride is too far or will take too long, they simply cancel the request, leaving riders stuck without a ride. For rider Sanjana Vijayshankar, six canceled rides from Uber and its largest Indian competitor, Ola, resulted in her getting to work two hours late after she no other choice but to make the 10-mile trip via public bus.
Users have allegedly spent up to 20 minutes on their phones watching their assigned drivers ride around, forcing the customers to cancel their rides and thereby receiving a late cancellation fee.
“I depend heavily on ride-hailing services to get to work,” said Aniruddha Kamat, a software engineer who works in Mumbai. “But I’ve been so pissed at them for the last few months. They’re no better than autorickshaws.”
It has gotten so bad, as a matter of fact, that there’s a wide swath of tweets about this exact issue all over the internet, with the Transportation Department of New Delhi officially proposing a new policy that would fine ridesharing drivers with a $340 fee for unwarranted cancellations.
“There is an urgent need to frame rules to regulate the operation of these cab service,” the Transportation Department told the Times of India.
As for Uber, meanwhile, a spokesperson issued a statement to BuzzFeed that essentially reiterates its cancellation policies and doesn’t specifically address this region-specific phenomenon causing so much frustration for hardworking Indians.
“We also keep a close watch on their trip acceptance and cancellation rates,” the spokesperson said. “While we do understand that there are cases when driver partners are compelled to cancel trips owing to unforeseen reasons, we encourage them to minimize cancellations for the reliability of the system.”
Ultimately, the issue seems to come down to drivers who just don’t want to travel too far from future business opportunities. “The longer a ride, the less return on my time I get,” said Santosh Kumar, who’s been driving an Uber in Noida for two years now. “After Uber’s commission and what the gas costs me, longer rides often end up being way more expensive for me,” he explained.
Unfortunately, Kumar isn’t entirely wrong, here. Both Uber and Ola have been prioritizing profitability and cut down on employee incentives in recent years, with drivers of these two services in India making less than $300 per month. Kumar said he makes more money on a few short rides than taking on a longer one, which, unfortunately, is at the crux of this issue.
“They tell us not to cancel rides in our training when we first sign up, but honestly, it’s not something anyone—either drivers or the companies—take very seriously,” said Mukesh Kumar Sharma, an Uber driver from New Delhi.
And if you think that the star rating would effectively deter drivers from canceling on several requests per day, that simply isn’t the case. For Ramesh Babu, a driver for Ola in Mumbai, the math still adds up well enough for him to make up his mind on the fly. “I get 20 rides a day,” he said. “Even if I cancel five and have my rating docked, the other 15 riders will usually give me a good rating. I don’t really care that much about it.”
The issue, of course, seems to be the business model at the very top, and hopefully, the powers that be will address this regional issue sooner rather than later.