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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

10 mins ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport when the gang abducted them in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro. Security forces placed six U.S. oil executives under house arrest later Saturday, per AP.

Kenosha shooting lawsuit accuses police of coordinating with militia

Police and protesters confront in front of the Kenosha County Courthouse on Aug. 25, 2020. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The only survivor of a fatal shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during protests last year has accused law enforcement in a lawsuit of conspiring with a "band of white nationalist vigilantes," the Washington Post reported Saturday.

Of note: Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, is due to stand trial on Nov. 1, accused of wounding Gaige Grosskreutz, who filed the suit, and killing two other people protesting the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Aug. 25, 2020. He's pleaded not guilty to charges including homicide and attempted homicide and maintains he fired in self-defense.