Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Surge pricing, on principle, is going nowhere, but the dreaded lightning bolt indicating exactly by what factor prices will be increased is (soon to be) no more.
In its place, as Uber employees explain on the company's blog, riders will be presented with "upfront fares." These require that riders enter their final destination along with their pickup location so that a total fare can be calculated. "When fares go up due to increased demand, instead of surge lightning bolts and pop-up screens, riders are given the actual fare before they request their ride," write product managers Arundhati Singh and Dennis Zhao.
To be absolutely clear, dynamic pricing, as Uber calls it, will continue on a business-as-usual basis — it's just going to be less transparent by how much or little it's dynamically gone up.
The Verge's analysis of the move: "this new method of minimizing surge pricing seems in-line with Uber’s prior efforts to shift the focus away from the unpopular feature." That sounds about right: Since surge pricing has been a sticking point among Uber customers and the media covering the company, it makes sense to, as CNet also characterizes the change, "tuck away" the math.
The move has been in testing since this spring, we're told. As the product managers continue, "In April we began slowly introducing upfront fares for regular uberX trips in cities across the US and more recently in India, with more to follow. To date, hundreds of thousands of riders have experienced upfront fares as part of this rollout." So, after testing and — let us not doubt this — tons of behavioral analysis research, Uber clearly thinks customers will prefer the new upfront fares.
By "prefer" I just mean that when presented with upfront fares as opposed to surge pricing factors, Uber users will now likely hail more expensive rides more freely. As for drivers: They almost unilaterally prefer to know the destinations of their passengers, for their own planning purposes, before accepting fares. What's good for the goose is good for the gander here.
Oh, and could this be what that Uber engineer meant when they indicated that surge pricing would be nixed earlier this year? The company rolled back the statement, which would make sense given the actual move! In hindsight, that would seem to explain what was going on.