Uber’s app has information about your phone battery strength. It uses that information to switch to low-power mode and not sap even more energy from your phone when you need it most. That’s nice. Uber also knows, according to its research, that its users will “accept up to 9.9 times surge pricing” when their batteries are dying. The formula is easy to follow. No phone, no car: stranded. Not stranded is a desirable state that users are willing to pay a premium for.
Uber executive Keith Chen explained all this to NPR on The Hidden Brain podcast. Chen also explained that Uber doesn’t use this information to trigger “surge pricing” and gouge customers who are in critical battery meltdown. It could, of course, take advantage of users’ distress. But it doesn’t, Chen says. Chen reveals other interesting things about human behavioral tendencies and how Uber sees and uses it at Shankar Vedantam’s The Hidden Brain, where you will always learn things about how your brain is operating. Getting it to operate another way is a different story.