Apr 3, 2017

How Uber uses mind tricks to manage its drivers

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.

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Sign of the times: A pro-Warren super PAC

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren at a rally in Nevada. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A group of women progressives who back Sen. Elizabeth Warren has formed Persist PAC, a super PAC airing pro-Warren ads starting Wednesday in an effort to boost her performance ahead of Saturday's crucial Nevada caucuses, a spokesman told Axios.

Why it matters: Warren has spoken adamantly against the influence of unlimited spending and dark money in politics. But these supporters have concluded that before Warren can reform the system, she must win under the rules that exist — and that whether she likes it or not, their uncoordinated help may be needed to keep her viable through this weekend's contest and into South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 58 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Pentagon policy chief resigns amid reported discord with Trump

John Rood. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

John Rood, the Pentagon's top policy official, will resign from his post at the end of the month, CNN first reported and President Trump confirmed.

The state of play: CNN said Rood "was perceived as not embracing some of the changes in policy the White House and senior Pentagon officials wanted," such as peace talks in Afghanistan with the Taliban and a decision to cut back on military exercises with South Korea as the president courted North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

Coronavirus cases rise, as warnings of global pandemic grow

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's NHC; Note: China refers to mainland China and the Diamond Princess is the cruise ship offshore Yokohama, Japan. Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

We may be "at the brink" of a global pandemic, warns a top U.S. public health official, as cases continue to spread despite containment efforts. Meanwhile, the global economy is being affected, including the tech manufacturing industry.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,000 people and infected over 75,000 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 136 new deaths since Tuesday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health