Why Uber is wise to destroy itself, before someone else does

By Thomas Lee : sfchronicle – excerpt

From taxicab unions and package couriers to politicians and regulators, a growing crowd of people would like to destroy Uber.

Add one more name to the list: Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick.

“There is an insane amount of public good” that comes with driverless cars, including better safety, Kalanick said. “As a technology company, am I going to be a part of the future or resist it? We don’t want to be the taxi companies before us.”…

Somewhere lost in the scrum over whether Uber drivers are employees or contractors, or whether the company conducts proper background checks, is the simple fact that Kalanick wants to eventually replace all Uber drivers with software and computers. Like Google and Tesla, Uber is trying to develop a car that can drive without a human operator.

This makes for some odd contradictions. At the Dreamforce conference last week in San Francisco, Kalanick suggested that he started Uber to help drivers as well as riders…

“We like to say that we give riders high-fives and give drivers hugs,” Kalanick said. “Taxi drivers have to pay $140 a day to rent a car. For that privilege, they get to be impoverished. Taxi drivers are good people. They are just treated badly.”

So why is Uber trying to put all human drivers — including those who work for taxis and Uber — out of business?

On the surface, Kalanick sounds flaky, even hypocritical. But his plan also reflects a business reality that Silicon Valley knows all too well. Technology is evolving so fast that companies must adapt or risk getting disrupted into extinction…

It’s the reason Apple and Cisco hoard cash. And why Google is reorganizing itself into a holding company called Alphabet. The era of one or two companies dominating a market for decades is over; a small startup can bring down the mightiest of corporations… (more)

It feels like Uber, Apple, Google and Alphabet want it all. If their employees and contractors don’t design it they will buy it to keep the competition down. Silicon valley is leading the way in putting humans out of work while building the new Gotham of the West. No doubt everyone working for them is on their way to disrupting themselves out of a job.

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