You're more likely to order a pricey Uber ride if your phone is about to die

Photo: Ramos/Getty Images

Uber can tell when your phone is running out of juice — and it has figured out that a low battery is a strong indicator as to whether you’re likely to accept surge pricing.

In an interview with NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast, Uber’s head of economic research, Keith Chen, explained how Uber’s data team can find weird patterns in its user behaviour.

“…One of the strongest predictors of whether or not you are going to be sensitive to surge — in other words, whether or not you are going to kind of say, oh, 2.2, 2.3, I’ll give it a 10 to 15 minutes to see if surge goes away — is how much battery you have left on your cell phone,” Chen said.

Uber has found that those with a low battery tend to accept the surge price regardless because they need a ride home that minute, instead of waiting an extra 15 for the surge to possibly go down, Chen explains.

And before you think Uber is spying on you, the app can tell when a phone’s battery is running low so that it knows when to go into power saving mode, according to NPR.

Chen, however, swears that the company never artificially inflates that surge pricing, even if it knows you’re more likely to accept a premium. It’s simply an interesting human behaviour that the company has seen in its data.

“And we absolutely don’t use that to kind of like push you a higher surge price, but it’s an interesting kind of psychological fact of human behaviour,” Chen said.

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