People spy in every war. The battle between Uber and Lyft is apparently no different. According to a new report by The Information, Uber used a clandestine piece of software called “Hell” between 2014 and 2016 to lure drivers who were working for both companies away from its biggest rival.
By creating fake Lyft rider accounts, Uber was able to monitor the habits of certain drivers, and determine which ones were “double-apping,” the term for drivers using both Uber and Lyft. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and a small crew of his associates then devised a plan to flood those drivers with Uber ride requests, rewarding them with cash bonuses for meeting certain quotas.
Uber reportedly dished out tens of millions of dollars in bonuses to the double-apping drivers in an attempt to lure them away from Lyft, leaving their most loyal employees high and dry. Eventually, as Lyft began expanding to more cities, Uber had to suspend the Hell program because the bonus payouts were reaching astronomical heights.
The small number of people that knew about “Hell” illustrates just how ethically problematic the software was.
“We are in a competitive industry. However, if true, these allegations are very concerning,“ a Lyft spokesperson told The Information.
Uber could face legal problems for violating the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Lyft’s terms of service.
The news is just the latest in a string of PR nightmares for the embattled company, which include the #deleteuber movement that began in the face of Donald Trump’s first immigration ban and culminated when a former employee accused senior staff of inappropriate sexual misconduct.
Kalanick meanwhile, has pledged to “fundamentally change” his company’s toxic culture. But each setback begs the question: how many more will we tolerate until we cancel our rides once and for all?