I used to get in taxis all the time in New York. But before the driver would let me in he’d (and it was always a he) roll down the window and ask where I was going. He didn’t want a ride in the opposite direction of where he wanted to go, and he certainly didn’t want to drive into an ‘undesirable’ (minority) neighborhood. That’s illegal, but the practice was commonplace.
Uber and other rideshare companies changed all that. You enter where you’re going in an app, the driver accepts the ride, but doesn’t learn the destination until you’re in the car and on the way – and they can be penalized for cancelling rides.
That’s all going to change in California, with new independent contractor rules bringing back transportation discrimination.
- California’s new independent contractor rules are having a lot of pretty bizarre effects. Aimed at Uber and Lyft but even has meant Vox severing ties with freelance writers in the state because California AB5 limits the number of articles they can write before having to be considered employees.
- Uber needs to make its drivers independent contractors, and one of the changes they’re making is giving drivers destination information up front. This way they aren’t telling drivers where to go – the independent contractors choose for themselves.
Some drivers have the feature where they can see destinations before accepting a trip today. The rest will be getting it in the coming days, before AB5 goes into effect January 1.
Drivers aren’t supposed to discriminate on the basis of destination, but they won’t be penalized for not accepting rides either – and there’s no way for an individual rider to know when they haven’t had a ride accepted because of where they’re going. I have a feeling there will be class action lawsuits over this, aimed at Uber, subpeonaing data on rides to redlined areas that aren’t accepted or that take longer than in the past.
The whole idea behind not making the destination visible was to prevent redlining destinations and to ensure equality in provision of rides. That was a huge way that Uber was better than taxis. California law, though, is requiring Uber to go back to how things used to be. The rideshare company for its part says they “”can’t speculate on marketplace impact.”
Before Uber and other food delivery services, restaurants doing their own deliveries used to draw their service areas to avoid driving in minority neighborhoods too.
Drivers love the California-only change, and some passengers will appreciate it there to – it should put an end to drivers calling asking your destination before picking you up, and cancelling if they don’t like it (something I’ve only experienced myself at Washington National airport). Nevertheless I don’t think it’s even close to a positive for society.