Shortly after several citizens were taken hostage in a cafe in Sydney’s central Martin Place, Uber’s fares surged to four times the standard rates to encourage drivers to pick up passengers in the area; after a backlash on Twitter following the announcement, the online cab service has begun offering rides to safety for free.
A gunman took several people hostage today at a Lindt cafe in the city’s central business district. It’s unclear as to exactly what the perpetrator’s motives and demands are, but Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that the incident could be politically motivated.
In an effort to encourage more of its drivers to head into the area and pick up passengers, Uber’s cab fares surged to four times the usual charges, with the minimum fare going up to $100 (AUD).
Twitter users were outraged by the announcement made via Uber Sydney’s social media channel, and the backlash has likely convinced the cab service to offer passengers free rides out of the troubled area:
Uber confirmed the offer in a blog post, and is refunding rides taken during these hours of strife. However, it maintains that the surge pricing remains in place only to encourage more drivers to pick up passengers from the CBD.
Update: Uber clarified its position in a statement made to The New York Times Bits blog: “Surge pricing is algorithmic and responded automatically to the large increase in demand for Uber rides out of the C.B.D. As soon as we became aware of the situation, we capped it and made all rides free to people leaving Sydney’s C.B.D.
Uber is paying for these rides. If riders got charged surge pricing earlier, we will refund it.”
➤ Uber free rides during the Sydney siege [Uber Blog]