Sep 12, 2014 · 2 minutes

Uber has backed down from a controversial policy change that forced all drivers to accept requests for UberX rides, which cost less than Uber's other offerings. This comes after more than 1,000 drivers protested the change in New York and Los Angeles throughout the month of September.

Slate reports that the company backed down from its decision after suspending multiple drivers from its service who declined too many requests for UberX rides when the new policy took effect. Some drivers were banned for 24 hours; once their accounts were reactivated, they were told that accepting less than 90 percent of ride requests could result in yet another suspension.

The change highlights Uber's reliance on its drivers. Without them, all it has is an empty app and a lot of upset investors who believe that the company will change the future of transit. As Michael Carney notes, Drivers are starting to realize their importance to the company:

Uber and its competitors have displaced the legacy taxi industry by making local transportation a more attractive proposition for both riders and drivers. Like any two-sided marketplace, it takes a balance among both groups for things to function efficiently. If Uber has trouble retaining drivers things come to a screeching halt rather quickly.

No wonder Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is counting down the days until he can replace these flesh and blood drivers with driverless vehicles. Oh, the efficiency! There's another factor working against Uber in its bid to increase the number of vehicles available to those who don't want to pay hundred-dollar fares to get around New York: its service's similarity to countless other ride-on-demand services that make all the same promises as Uber and, in many cases, use the same drivers to serve ride requests made through their apps.

The drivers are starting to realize that this gives them power, too. BuzzFeed reported last night that many striking Uber drivers switched to accepting ride requests from Lyft users instead of Uber's customers, allowing them to protest the policy change without forcing them to give up their primary source of income in the interim. So far as strike tactics go, that one's solid.

Uber has made a habit of picking battles with regulators and legislators alike, and it often keeps on attacking them until they finally decide to let it do whatever it wants. Now it seems that the company can't use similar tactics with its drivers, many of whom are starting to realize that they are the ones keeping all these ride-on-demand services in business, not the other way around.

[Image via Alex Diaz, Twitter]