Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle:
Too many drivers cherry-pick lucrative rides and decline other requests, making the service unreliable, the San Francisco company said on Monday. Uber no longer has to worry about proving that drivers are independent contractors, because Prop 22 — the November ballot measure that Uber and fellow gig companies spent $220 million to pass — enshrines their non-employee status.
Uber argued in court last summer that drivers’ ability to see destinations and set prices meant they were truly independent. California and three city attorneys are suing Uber and rival Lyft over driver classification under AB5, in a case that continues, but now will only look at conduct before Prop 22 took effect.
But on the streets, the move backfired. A third of California drivers declined more than 80% of their ride requests, making the service unreliable, Uber said this week. About a fifth of potential passengers in California now end up not finding a ride, a sevenfold increase from previously. The pandemic further constrained the number of drivers, who must now grapple with the risk of the virus.
In order to maintain the façade that Uber has always been a disruptive tech company where people could take “gigs” as drivers, instead of an illegal taxi operation that exploits contractor classification, it rushed into place just enough features to qualify drivers as independent workers. What it learned from this experiment is that Uber’s model falls apart when drivers are actually independent.