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Assemlywoman Lorena Gonzalez. (Kevin Sanders for California Globe)
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Uber Changes App to Comply with AB 5

Uber’s changes will also make drivers appear more independent for upcoming AB 5 lawsuits

By Evan Symon, January 9, 2020 5:02 pm

Uber made major changes to its app in California on Wednesday to make the rideshare company more compliant with the new AB 5 law.

New changes with Uber

The new service changes include removing set prices for trips. Instead, single UberX passengers will see a range based on distance and estimated time. Surge fares will also remove a fixed price. Instead they will include a multiple on a map, indicating that the price will be times that to whatever the original cost was.

Returning customers will also no longer receive price protection for different routes, while drivers will now see exactly how much they will make on pool fares. Drivers will also now be able to reject anyone they want, especially in cases of a ride being too far out of the way.

“This is the beginning of what AB 5 promised us,” said Los Angeles-based Uber and Lyft driver Ramon Gallos. “We had drives that gave a flat fee that turned out to take much longer. So with gas and general upkeep, sometimes we’d be making nothing at all. Now, since we’re employees, we don’t have to worry about that. It’s not out of pocket like it was for contractors.”

“Price protection was a killer too, especially in days of heavy traffic or when a street was blocked off. I had customers who had price protection whose routes would have cost double without it due to a movie set shutting down a block or the president coming to town blocking up everything.”

“It was murder.”

“Now we’ll get 25% of UberX rides. It’s really incredible for drivers.”

Reactions to the change

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), the author of AB 5 praised the decision, and over Twitter she attempted to show how Uber was caving in to AB 5.

“Uber: We want an exemption from AB5. We won’t follow AB5. AB5 doesn’t apply to us. We will exempt ourselves from AB5 by initiative. We will sue CA about AB5. Oh, wait, we will change our business model to try to fit AB5,” tweeted Assemblywoman Gonzalez.

Other supporters, including many Uber drivers, have similarly approved of the new Uber rules, with many similarly agreeing with the points made by Ramon.

An independent contractor agenda

Despite following new AB 5 laws, the changes are also designed to help Uber overturn AB 5. Uber is currently both starting a lawsuit with other driver companies in court against the new law, and are currently backing and conducting signature gathering for a ballot measure to repeal AB 5 in November. Wednesday’s changes could help Uber and other companies win. As the new laws give drivers more flexibility in choosing what passengers they want and more of a range of trip payments.

“This may only prove that drivers are more of an independent contractor and not an employee,” noted lawyer and former Uber driver Miriam Castillo. “That’s been the dividing line here, and Uber, at the same time as they went with some of the new law, they went against the spirit of it. You could argue drivers are now more of an independent contractor than before. Not only can they still set their own hours, now they can refuse jobs. Employees don’t usually do that.”

“If this goes to a proposition in November, this is what Uber and Lyft and everyone else will talk about. It’s more proof that they aren’t employees.”

“Plus a lot of riders are going to be mad with higher than expected fares due to it being a range of prices instead of a fixed price. So there will be angry voters coming out too, which is never a good thing if you’re on the other side.”

Lyft and other rideshare services have not made any alterations to their services in California as of Thursday. Decisions on AB 5 in court, and whether or not that a repeal proposition will be coming in November, are expected in the coming months.

Evan Symon

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked. He can be reached at evan@californiaglobe.com.
Evan Symon
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