Uber reportedly used a secret program called 'Hell' to track rival Lyft drivers

Derweze -- the Door to HellNMK Photography/FlickrThe Darvaza gas crater.

Uber reportedly used secret software called “Hell” to track drivers using its biggest competitor in the US, Lyft, and monitor which drivers also drove for Uber.

A report from The Information, which we saw via TechCrunch, claims that Uber’s “Hell” software used fake Lyft passenger accounts to track the locations of its drivers.

Uber reportedly used software to edit the location of each Lyft account, arranging them in a way that it was able to see the location of Lyft cars across an entire city.

A spokesperson for Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Why the ominous name for the software? “Hell” was reportedly named to be in contrast with Uber’s internal “God Mode” and “Heaven” view of its own drivers. So Uber had “Heaven” for its own services, and “Hell” for its biggest competitor.

Uber and Lyft have a long-running rivalry that has leads to accusations of foul play by both companies. In 2014 it was reported that Uber gave contractors burner phones and credit cards to help them recruit Lyft drivers to the platform. And last year Lyft was found to be using Uber rides in an attempt to recruit drivers to its Premier service.

The “Hell” story is just the latest negative story about Uber, which has seen a firestorm of bad press over the last several months:

  • The company has been accused of systematic sexism and gender bias by a former employee, prompting an internal inquiry.
  • CEO Travis Kalanick has been attacked over his relationship with the Trump administration.
  • Reports emerged about the company’s “aggressive” workplace culture.
  • The company has been sued by Google’s self-driving car unit Waymo, accusing Uber’s self-driving car boss of stealing confidential material and copying Waymo’s designs.
  • Kalanick was caught on video in a heated argument with an Uber driver over pay, telling the driver that “some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own s–t”.
  • News broke that Uber was using a secret “Greyball” tool to deceive government authorities around the world.
  • It emerged that Uber had lied about its self-driving cars, which skipped multiple red lights.
  • Leaked data showed that its self-driving cars still relied heavily on humans, with drivers being forced to take back control more than once a mile on average.
  • Business Insider’s Alexei Oreskovic reported that sources say that “attracting new employees and bolstering internal morale has become increasingly difficult as the company tries to overcome its tarnished reputation.”
  • Multiple high-level execs have left the company, including president Jeff Jones (who cited “differences over beliefs and approach to leadership”), the vice-presidents of maps and growth, and PR head Rachel Whetstone.
  • It came out that in 2014, Uber execs — including Kalanick and right-hand man Emil Michael — led a team visit to a karaoke-escort bar in South Korea.

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