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Uber drivers and the battle with the system

Uber drivers and any freelance drivers, know that they walk a fine line with the companies that provide them work and pay. In fact, drivers are generally powerless when a "TNP" (transportation network provider) wants to make any change in rates or percentages. We just get in the car and drive.

This academic paper by Alex Rosenblat and Luke Stark, gets into the deep dark details that Uber and its drivers go through to make this whole transportation paradigm work. There is a tremendous amount of elusiveness on the part of Uber, and the experience is similar on just about all of the driver platforms.

Some interesting points to consider:

  • Uber and Lyft only compensate for time driven but rely on 'dead time' (when a driver has no passengers) to feed their transportation information.
  • TNPs rely on passengers as management in regards to driver performance, even though they do not have the knowledge to make reasonable assessments in regards to stated policies for drivers. (i.e. it is against both companies' policies to transport minors alone, and yet a driver can get a negative review for sticking to that policy that goes uncorrected by the system.)
  • Drivers are not compensated for driving to return lost items.
  • TNP's claim to create jobs but then also do not claim drivers as employees.
  • Even support staff for TNP's are often not employees of the company. The barriers to actually contact Uber or Lyft are pretty high.

As someone who is actively participating in this, albeit not for Uber, it's an important peak behind the curtain and a reminder that the house always wins.

The PDF of the full paper is available at the link above.