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How Fair is that Fare?

car with light trails
Credit: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

New standards for distance measurements in app-based ride-hailing vehicles.

When requesting pickup via mobile app, riders rely on the vehicle service itself to determine how far the driver took them, and therefore how much money they owe. But how can customers be sure that the vehicle’s distance and time measurements are accurate?

A NIST-led working group has proposed a new set of standards that should provide regulatory officials with the procedures they need to evaluate app-based ride-hailing systems for commercial use. The standards include how these ride services measure time and distance, and how the measurements are used in calculating a passenger’s fare. 

Inspectors using the standards would be able to compare a certified measurement of distance or time to information obtained from receipts. They could also check for improper information posted in the cars or broken displays.

The group that crafted the proposal wanted to ensure that app-based services are regulated equally with traditional taxicabs – a challenge because the two providers measure distance in fundamentally different ways. Taxis are equipped with hardware devices that feed this information to taximeters. Ride-hailing apps, on the other hand, rely on mobile devices for determining the vehicle’s movements and travel time, and to access the company’s proprietary software. 

If adopted, the new standards should help ensure that both ride-hailing vehicles and taxis provide accurate data for ride distance and time, and therefore accurate fares.


Created September 17, 2018, Updated November 15, 2019