A new report charges that Uber drivers are systematically “gaming the system”, deliberately going offline to avoid orders, and are collaborating “en masse” to force higher prices.

“Uber uses software algorithms for oversight, governance and to control drivers, who are tracked and their performance constantly evaluated,” says Mareike Möhlmann of Warwick University. “In response, drivers have developed practices to regain control, even gaming the system.”

Researchers at Warick, which is based in the U.K., and New York University published the study.

Uber is widely available across the Triangle and North Carolina, a state that in the past has been declared by the company to be a good market for its services.

The authors conclude that “drivers were finding ways to trick the algorithms that Uber uses to control them to cancel fares they didn’t want and to avoid the unpopular UberPOOL – where drivers have to take multiple passengers who are heading in the same direction.”

The study is the latest bad news for Uber, which not only faces increasing competition from rivals such as Lyft but also has been heavily criticized for its management and lack of diversity.

According to the study, drivers have organized mass “switch-offs” so a lack of drivers in a certain area will force higher rates. The result is higher “surge pricing.”

Drivers also are ignoring UberPOOL orders under which they are supposed to pick up additional riders headed to a certain location.

The study authors interviewed drivers in New York and London while also reviewing more than 1,000 blogs on the UberPeople net platform.

The results show that “‘algorithmic management’ that Uber uses may not only be ethically questionable but may also hurt the company itself,” Möhlmann said.

Uber drivers certainly are under pressure, the report noted.

“Under constant surveillance through their phones and customer reviews, drivers’ behavior is ranked automatically and any anomalies reported for further review, with automatic bans for not obeying orders or low grades. Drivers receive different commission rates and bonus targets, being left in the dark as to how it is all calculated. Plus drivers believe they are not given rides when they near reaching a bonus. The compensation for UberPOOL, which drivers have to agree to do or be banned, is even more complex. Drivers are forced to accept different passengers on the same ride, even though it is not economically beneficial to do so.”

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