Uber makes changes in California to brace for new gig worker law

Passengers won't see the price of their ride until the end of the trip.

Late last month, Uber and Postmates sued California in an attempt to block AB5, the law that would reclassify many gig economy workers as employees. While that fight is not over, Uber is also preparing for the event that AB5 takes effect. The company sent an email to over 150,000 drivers and millions of passengers, letting them know of several changes the company is making in California.

Rather than show upfront pricing for all trips other than Uber Pool, Uber will now show passengers in California a range of prices. The final price will be calculated at the end of the trip. Passengers will also be able to add drivers to a "favorites" list, and the company will eliminate some Uber Rewards benefits, like price protection on a route and flexible cancellations.

In its message to riders, Uber said, "These changes may take some getting used to, but our goal is to keep Uber available to as many qualified drivers as possible, without restricting the number of drivers who can work at a given time."

Drivers will reportedly see more info, including trip time, distance, destination and estimated fare, and they'll be able to reject a ride request without penalty.

Theoretically, giving drivers more control and being more transparent about fares may better prepare Uber for the repercussions of AB5. But critics note that the changes could cause drivers to reject shorter trips or refuse trips to certain neighborhoods, potentially leading to discrimination against lower-income areas.

In a statement provided to Engadget, Uber said:

"AB5 threatens to restrict or eliminate opportunities for independent workers across a wide spectrum of industries, including trucking, freelance journalism and ridesharing. As a result of AB5, we've made a number of product changes to preserve flexible work for tens of thousands of California drivers. At the same time, we've put forward a progressive package of new protections for drivers, including guaranteed minimum earnings and benefits, so voters can choose to truly improve flexible work in November."