It's been a busy day for Uber. In addition to adding a presidential mastermind to the payroll, the company also began an "experimental" delivery service called Corner Store "rolling out first to DC area customers." According to ThinkProgress, those customers all have something in common. (Spoiler: they're white.)
The defining characteristic was first noted by Twitter user @DonnyBridges, who attracted the attention of Uber's D.C. unit, which responded with a cheery "Stay tuned!"
ThinkProgress sees this as another instance as Silicon Valley willfully reinforcing the status quo:
The practice of "redlining" has been utilized for decades by industries ranging from supermarkets to banking. But if brick and mortar stores engage in a kind of quiet discrimination by simply choosing not to opt in to low-income or minority neighborhoods, companies like Uber, which are highly scalable and inherently mobile, make conscious decisions to purposefully opt out of entire neighborhoods from their service areas.
The press sometimes paints Uber as a solution to the longstanding discrimination that black people have hailing a cab, as well as issues with cab drivers reluctant to serve customers in "bad" neighborhoods. This Washington Post article, for example, thoroughly investigated the corruption behind taxi medallions, but readily bought Uber's claims about the fixing power of data:
Technology at the same time could change not only how people get around, but also how cities monitor companies that provide that service. Uber's chief product isn't really rides; it's data. Uber keeps a GPS trace of every ride in every neighborhood, of every driver and passenger.
If a driver on call repeatedly ignores certain pickups, Uber knows that in a way that Yellow Cab does not. If a neighborhood perpetually has passenger demand but no driver supply, Uber's data reveal those patterns, too.
To see those patterns, however, Uber has to care and want to look.