Blog #677 Uber/Lyft/ Taxis – Oh My

Uber / Lyft / Taxis – Oh My!!!

Yes I have written too much about autonomous vehicles.  Uber and Lyft are experimenting with autonomous vehicles.    “Uber revealed that it’s collected data from “millions” of autonomous vehicle testing miles to date and completed “tens of thousands” of passenger trips with a fleet of 250 vehicles.”

Recently Uber and Lyft drivers did a one-day strike.  They are also concerned about autonomous vehicles taking away their jobs,  A report said: “On May 8th, ride-hail drivers in cities across the US went on strike to protest unfair pay, poor working conditions, and a lack of transparency”.

A court ruling said the drivers were not employees but contract workers – so the drivers are not eligible for benefits.  

So, what is the story?

In most employment situations people are the most costly.  Currently, with some exceptions, Uber and Lyft drivers provide their own cars.  A part of their driving, they get a mileage reimbursement that takes care of some of the car costs (gas, oil, maintenance, ownership, licenses).  The ride-hailing apps need people (and independent contractor people) to bring their cars – and that costs money.

Yes, initially autonomous vehicles will be expensive cars with all the extra software and hardware – but with thousands of rides, that fixed cost will be spread across years – and also will be a depreciable asset for Uber/Lyft’s financials.  Plus – no driver expenses.

In theory, autonomous vehicles will cut out paying drivers and cut out one of the major expenses of vehicles for hire.  While it is still years away from being a 100% autonomous situation, the companies are moving in that direction.

Autonomous vehicles are generally thought to be safer by removing the human factor.  Humans text while they are driving (I’ve only done this while pulled over to the shoulder – with notes to tutees that I would probably be late).  Humans get tired, humans can make poor judgment about traffic and weather conditions. Humans need sleep, food, restroom breaks – autonomous vehicles need none of that.  

A study in New York City shows that “NYC taxis’ market share is down nearly 40% since 2016. Meanwhile, Uber’s market share gained about 440%.  That is amazing!!

But, maybe you are like me and rarely use taxis or Uber/Lyft.  Why should this concern me?

Think about that – if cars can drive themselves without humans, then can many jobs be done without humans?  We have automated check-out lines in stores; Amazon has convenient stores without any human workers (cameras and computers keep track of all items).  JetBlue is trying facial recognition instead of boarding passes to get on planes. What will our future be in a world of robotics?

I’m an optimist and believe that humans will adapt to the new life – we will find jobs and opportunities to work with our robotic ‘friends’.  

Autonomous cars and ride sharing is one of the many tips of this iceberg – and instead of melting this iceberg is still growing!!!

What do you think?


Posted by Bruce White

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