Uber is denying research which asserts the number of available drivers you see on the in-app map view is padded. According to the company, it always reports the accurate number of cars available in an area, but there are instances where it may be a touch off.
The original report was circulated by Motherboard, where an Uber customer service representative said the app “is simply showing that there are partners on the road at the time,” and “is not a representation of the exact numbers of drivers or their location.”
Speaking to The Guardian, an Uber spokesperson had the following to say:
Our goal is for the number of cars and their location to be as accurate as possible in real time. Latency is one reason this is not always possible. Another reason is that the app only shows the nearest eight cars to avoid cluttering the screen. Also, to protect the safety of drivers, in some volatile situations, the app doesn’t show the specific location of individual cars until the ride is requested.
If Uber is to be believed, the number of cars on-screen may actually be reduced at times.
From a technical standpoint, Uber’s reasoning makes a bit more sense. Using your smartphone to ping a server, which feeds real-time location data back to you, is going to have some latency issues. If a driver two blocks from you just dropped someone off, it’ll take a few seconds for that to populate on your screen.
“Phantom” cars or not, we should probably be more concerned with the ability to get a ride anyway — and if Uber doesn’t work, there’s always Lyft.
Read next: Why Uber is buying map companies