Bug In Ola’s App Allows Users To Book Cabs To Everywhere From The US To North Korea

Ola might’ve set up operations in Australia, but its app seems to think its services are even more international.

A bug in Ola’s app is letting users book cabs to anywhere in the world. The bug was first spotted by Twitter user Rohit Menda, who managed to book a trip from Bangalore to North Korea. Ola said the outstation ride had been scheduled for 12:30 am the following day, sent him a confirmation SMS with the car number and the name of the driver, and even gave a fare estimate — at the rate of Rs. 10 per kilometre, Ola was going to charge Menda Rs. 1,49,088 for the round trip.

Ola replied to the post saying it might’ve been a technical glitch and asked the user to try turning off his phone and turning on again, but this prompted even more people to try booking trips to more ambitious destinations. A Twitter user managed to book a trip to the US for the princely sum of Rs. 3,55,940

While another booked a trip to chilly Canada for just a shade under Rs. 4 lakh.

And another user decided take the opportunity to go on Hajj in Mecca.

Ola presumably won’t be putting airlines out of business anytime soon with its outstation rides, but this is a fairly embarrassing bug for the company that’s now valued at $4 billion. More worryingly, this isn’t the first time that users have discovered that Ola’s systems don’t have basic checks — last April, Ola had handed a customer a bill of Rs. 1.49 crore for a ride that hadn’t even showed up. A few months earlier, Ola had slapped a bill of Rs. 9 lakh to a user for a ride between Hyderabad and Nizamabad, which is 200 kms away.

All these bills had been later overturned, but frequent glitches of this nature don’t inspire much confidence in a company that users rely on for calculating fares on a daily basis. Ola’s fare calculation algorithms are pretty much a black box — each time users want a ride, the company calculates the fare based on the distance to be traveled and the demand and supply of cabs. If these algorithms don’t even have basic check to determine if drop points are across international borders, it could lead users to wonder how accurate Ola’s other fares really are.