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Photo: Alastair Pike/AFP via Getty Images

Uber is rolling out a number of changes to its ride-hailing service in California due to a new state law with stricter requirements to classify a worker as an independent contractor, according to a new customer email.

Why it matters: Uber has said it doesn't believe the law will force it to reclassify drivers because its core business is technology, not transportation, but it's unsurprising the company is taking steps to give (in practice and appearance) more autonomy to its drivers to protect itself.

Details:

  • Pricing: Passengers will now be given an estimated range for a non-carpool trip instead of an upfront, set price. Uber (and rival Lyft) previously worked this way up through 2016 when both companies rolled out a current "upfront pricing" model that effectively decoupled what the rider pays from what the driver earns.
  • Picking drivers: Drivers who receive a five-star rating will be given priority to accept passenger requests, while those who receive one star will not be matched with that rider.
  • Rewards: Uber is discontinuing some of the features of its rewards program for riders, including "price protection" for certain routes (presumably their usual commute or rides to frequent destinations).

Uber is also making some changes on the driver side, including a 25% cap on the commission they pay to Uber, and how "surge pricing" (increased prices during high-demand times) is calculated. Similar changes will roll out for its food delivery business too.

The bottom line: Over the years, Uber made a number of changes to its ride-hailing service to juice up its revenue and margins — but many of those have been criticized by drivers for making the business less transparent and putting workers at the mercy of the company's whims.

Go deeper: Uber and Postmates sue California over gig-worker rights law

Editor's note: The story has been updated to clarify the company's past comments about the law.

Go deeper

51 mins ago - World

China's Xi swipes at U.S.: "Countries shouldn't impose rules on others"

China's President Xi Jinping during a video summit in Beijing on Friday. Photo: Li Xueren/Xinhua via Getty Images

China's President Xi Jinping on Tuesday warned against "bossing others around or meddling in others' internal affairs" and called for "more fair and equitable" global governance.

Why it matters: Xi's thinly veiled swipes at the U.S. during an online speech at an economic forum come at a time of heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington over trade, human rights and China's strategic and economic ambitions.

U.S. ambassador to Russia will return home briefly: State Department

John Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during a briefing in Moscow in 2015. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

The State Department said Monday that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, will now be returning to the United States this week before returning to Moscow "in the coming weeks."

Why this matters: The statement, from a State Department spokesperson, comes just hours after Axios reported that Sullivan had indicated he intended to stand his ground and stay in Russia after the Kremlin “advised” him to return home to talk with his team.

Scoop: Leaked Ukraine memo reveals scope of Russia's aggression

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a military exposition in Sevastopol, Crimea, in Jan. 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia has been holding last-minute military exercises near commercial shipping lanes in the Black Sea that threaten to strangle Ukraine's economy, according to an internal document from Ukraine's ministry of defense reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: With the eyes of the world on the massive buildup of troops in eastern Ukraine, the leaked memo shows Russian forces escalating their presence on all sides of the Ukrainian border.