If you’re an Uber driver and you must have heard that Uber has been testing self-driving cars since early last year.
According to Bloomberg, Uber’s first set of self-driving cars will start picking up passengers this month in Pittsburg, California. The company will deploy about 100 modified Volvos XC90s with self-driving equipment. One engineer and a co-pilot will be assigned to each and a liquid-cooled computer for recording trip and map data will be placed in the trunk of the car.
Sounds very futuristic and intelligent right?
Yes. Very nice.
But what happens to all the human Uber drivers that are not engineers?
What happens to the young men like the ones I met a few weeks ago without jobs who rely on Uber for their daily bread? Or the young, smart fresh graduates who haven’t decided what career path to take after school?
What provision is Uber making for these guys?
Artificial intelligence is on the rise, and various industries will come to embrace it in the near future as they try to cut cost and stay ahead of competition. However, we need to remember that human intelligence is irreplaceable.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick
Uber CEO and Co-Founder of Uber, Travis Kalanick, in an interview with Business Insider dismissed the claim that self-driving cars will be replacing humans.
"If you're talking about a city like San Francisco or the Bay Area generally, we have, like, 30,000 active drivers. We are going to go from 30,000 to, let's say, hypothetically, a million cars, right? But when you go to a million cars, you're still going to need a human-driven parallel, or hybrid. And the reason why is because there are just places that autonomous cars are just not going to be able to go or conditions they're not going to be able to handle. And even though it is going to be a smaller percentage of the whole, I can imagine 50,000 to 100,000 drivers, human drivers, alongside a million-car network.
So I don't think the number of human drivers will go down anytime soon. In fact, I think in an autonomous world, it goes up. In absolute figures. Of course, in percentage it's down."
In January 2016, global financial services firm, Morgan Stanley prepared a 290-page document for clients interested in investing in Uber stating the risks facing the business. One of these risks happened to be increased competition.
One of the most significant statements in the report is that the more the competition in the ride-hailing market, as seen with the likes of Lyft and Didi, the more money Uber will need to spend to improve brand awareness. Consequently, the company will burn out more cash to attract and retain customers.
"The Company anticipates that, as its market becomes increasingly competitive, maintaining and enhancing its brand may become increasingly difficult and expensive. ... The Company has incurred significant net losses since inception and the Company expects it operating expenses to increase significantly in the foreseeable future. ...
"A significant portion of the Company's expenses and investments are fixed, and it may not be able to adjust its spending quickly enough if its revenue is less than expected."
Also, the issue of independent contractors was mentioned:
"The Company is incurring significant costs, including legal fees, in defending the independent contractor status of drivers using its platform. Although the Company believes that it is not an employer of the drivers who use its platform, adverse determinations in these matters may subject it to additional compensation expenses or taxes in certain jurisdictions, which could have a material adverse effect on its ability to operate its business.
Among other things, such a determination could entitle certain drivers using the Company's platform to the reimbursement of certain expenses, lead to the potential unionization of drivers, impose tax withholding and reporting obligations on the Company, entitle drivers using the Company's platform to the benefit of wage-and-hour laws, impose applicable leaves of absence requirements, medical insurance, workers compensation insurance, ERISA and similar pension fund obligations and restrictions on the Company."
Who do you think would pay for these losses?
Uber or Uber’s human drivers like Umueme, Onyedikachi, James, Cosmas and Kehinde?