Over a few short years, Uber has grown from a niche alternative to a cab ride to an integral part the transportation systems in large cities. With more and more commuters relying on Uber instead of traditional taxis or public transit options, it is important to understand the way that Uber handles claims for injuries to its passengers and the possible evidence that Uber keeps in its digital archives and repositories. Grasping the basics of the technology that Uber uses is important for lawyers who handle Uber cases, but understanding the intricacies of Uber’s technology is difficult because Uber is notoriously tight-lipped about its technology platforms and because technology is evolving at such a rapid rate that it is a serious challenge to keep up with what technologies Uber is using at any given point in time.
Uber is, at its core, a data company. The Uber application (“app”) shares a wide variety of information with Uber’s data servers. A lot of this data is stored and analyzed by Uber’s data software, in order for Uber to maximize its efficiency and profits. The data that Uber collects from its drivers and passengers allows Uber to use predictive computer models and artificial intelligence to predict the supply and demand of drivers and riders in any given place, at any given time, and under any given circumstances.
In order for Uber to track its over 150,000 drivers and its passengers, Uber uses “Telematics.” Telematics is a process that sends real time data from a phone’s GPS system to a centralized computer system, where the data can be processed. Uber uses Telematics to ensure that it incentivizes its drivers to respond to areas of high demand. In addition to tracking the GPS coordinates of the riders and drivers, Uber also collects data from a phone’s accelerometer (which tracks how quickly or abruptly the phone is accelerating or decelerating), and from the phone’s gyroscope. According to research done on Uber’s data collection, Uber stores information from every trip taken, even if the Uber driver does not have a passenger in the car.
Uber also relies on Telematics to track the performance of the Uber drivers. According to a post on Uber’s Engineering blog, Uber Engineering’s Driving Safety team “write(s) code to measure indicators of unsafe driving and help driver partners stay safe on the road. We measure our success by how much we can decrease car crashes, driving-related complaints, and trips during which we detect unsafe driving.” It has been reported that Uber will use the information from its Telematics system to send automated notes to drivers whose driving or habits are potentially unsafe. For example, at times, Uber has sent notifications to drivers to use a phone mount so that the driver is not holding his/her phone while driving (tracking the information from a phone’s gyroscope can tell Uber whether or not a phone is mounted). Drivers have also been sent notifications from Uber to show how many times the driver hit the gas or the brakes too hard.
Data about a driver’s interaction with the Uber app, as well as the time and routes taken by a driver, is also often retained by Uber.
REQUESTS FOR UBER’S DATA
In pre-litigation investigation of an injury claim, anticipate that Uber will rarely, if ever, respond to a formal request for it to produce data. Once a lawsuit is filed, Uber will respond to subpoenas as required by law. To serve subpoenas on Uber, attorneys must specifically address a subpoena to Uber’s registered entity in the state. Uber’s website details how it processes third-party data requests and how these must be served and addressed in order to get a response from Uber. Even with a subpoena, getting data responsive to formal discovery requests can be a challenge.
Once a claim enters formal litigation, attorneys should not simply rely upon “template” Requests to Produce or template Interrogatories. According to Uber, the data is collects is stored anonymously. Therefore, it is important to creatively tailor formal discovery requests in a manner that is driver-specific, passenger-specific, as well as “global.” Template Interrogatories or Requests to Produce will often yield non-responsive answers (e.g., “the data/information south is not individualized for a specific passenger or driver.”)
Below is a list of possible discovery requests that are worthy of consideration. It is important to remember that the discovery needs to be directed at Uber and the driver (as Uber
- Any notifications, texts, emails, pop-ups, or alerts sent to the driver (over a period of time to be determined by the attorney)
- How many hours the driver worked on the date of the incident
- How many hours the driver worked over the week, month, and year
- Any promotions, bonuses, or driver incentive programs that were active for drivers for the day and week of the incident (whether cash incentive or not)
- Whether the driver drove Lyft or any other ridesharing or delivery service
- What the driver’s earning goals were set at for the week of the incident and the driver’s progress towards that goal
- Whether another ride was pending pickup while on the ride at issue
- Whether the driver’s phone was mounted or not and whether at any time Uber sent notifications to the driver about using a mount
- What the surge pricing map showed in the relevant time period before the incident
- All driver interactions with app during the day of the incident and week of the incident
- Whether the driver was responding to a surge pricing area on the map
- The policy in effect at the time regarding maximum driver hours allowed for a day, week, and month
- Any background investigation of the driver and any history of claims relating to the driver
- Whether vehicle was owned by driver or rented through a lease program
- Any and all maintenance records on vehicle
- The driver’s driving history (for an applicable amount of time) and analytics data regarding his driving habits, as well as any driver safety scores or data
- When driver was logged onto or off the app during the date of the incident
- Any notifications sent to driver, if he/she did attempt to log off app during the date of the incident
- All ratings and rider comments for the driver, whether shared to the driver’s Uber profile or sent to Uber directly
- Any notices ever sent to driver about his/her driving habits or driver safety
- Whether the driver’s account was ever suspended, restricted, or terminated for any reason at any time
- All graphics or images displayed to the driver through the app during the 30 days prior to the incident and the times these were displayed
- The amount of money the driver earned on a daily basis (over a relevant period of time)
The materials above are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue. Use of and access to this post and website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship between our firm and attorneys and the user or browser. The opinions expressed on this this site are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the firm or any individual attorney.
Judson M. Graham is an attorney at McCallister Law Group, LLC in Chicago, Illinois. He concentrates his legal practice in the areas of wrongful death, medical malpractice, and personal injury litigation.