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Rebecca Zisser / Axios

A lengthy New York Times report about Uber's techniques for managing when and where drivers work reveals an intense collision between Uber's business model, its employment practices, and its use of behavior science to influence drivers.

  • Why it matters: Uber's classification of its drivers as independent contractors instead of employees is at the core of its need for these practices. To avoid being forced to classify workers as employees, a company has to limit how much control is exerts over its contractors' work—it can't do things like train them, give them set work schedules, etc. So it's devised methods — similar to those used by video game developers — to direct drivers, including "surge" pricing, encouraging text messages, reminding them of earnings goals, and more.
  • Competing goals: Not all techniques satisfy everyone's goals, as the Times points out. "Surge" pricing, for example, aims to get more drivers to get on the road to meet the increased demand for rides, but the price hikes frustrate passengers. And while Uber wants to have as many drivers on the road at all times to ensure passengers can get picked up quickly, this leaves many drivers idle if there's not enough demand.
  • Beyond Uber: While Uber is the subject of the Times' report, it's far from the only "gig economy" company to use such techniques to manage independent contractors.

Go deeper

Schumer's m(aj)ority checklist

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Capitalizing on the Georgia runoffs, achieving a 50-50 Senate and launching an impeachment trial are weighty to-dos for getting Joe Biden's administration up and running on Day One.

What to watch: A blend of ceremonies, hearings and legal timelines will come into play on Tuesday and Wednesday so Chuck Schumer can actually claim the Senate majority and propel the new president's agenda.

The dark new reality in Congress

National Guard troops keep watch at security fencing. Photo: Kent Nishimura/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

This is how bad things are for elected officials and others working in a post-insurrection Congress:

  • Rep. Norma Torres (D-Calif.) said she had a panic attack while grocery shopping back home.
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) said police may also have to be at his constituent meetings.
  • Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) told a podcaster he brought a gun to his office on Capitol Hill on Jan. 6 because he anticipated trouble with the proceedings that day.
Off the Rails

Episode 3: Descent into madness ... Trump: "Sometimes you need a little crazy"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 3: The conspiracy goes too far. Trump's outside lawyers plot to seize voting machines and spin theories about communists, spies and computer software.

President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office one day in late November when a call came in from lawyer Sidney Powell. "Ugh, Sidney," he told the staff in the room before he picked up. "She's getting a little crazy, isn't she? She's really gotta tone it down. No one believes this stuff. It's just too much."