by Max DeNike : sfweekly – excerpt
It’s been an up and down week for Uber, but then again most are. When you’re so successful yet so controversial at the same time, that’s life. But two things that happened this week to the San Francisco ride-share app are far more interesting, and connected, than meets the eye…
First, let’s review Uber’s bad week. Uber had settled a lawsuit with some 300,000 drivers over pay and employee classification in April, but on Thursday a federal judge in San Francisco tossed it out, saying it was unfair to the drivers. While the company had agreed to pay out $100 million, the settlement had not been viewed positively because what drivers really want is to be considered full-fledged employees so they get better pay and some benefits.
No one was really surprised over this outcome, but it could hurt Uber’s chances of continuing to save tons of money by employing independent contractor drivers. Or it could be bad for the drivers — even if those drivers don’t last much longer.
Which brings us to Uber’s good week. It’s no secret that Uber is obsessed with driverless automobiles, and on Thursday it was revealed that the company’s first such cars will start operating in Pittsburgh this month. Of course, there will be a human monitoring the robot (which means this experiment could become 2001: A Space Odyssey in no time)…
Still, Kalanick insists Uber is not out to replace humans entirely, offering this happy assessment of the future to USA Today: “This isn’t an overnight thing, it’ll take a really long time. But let’s take a city like San Francisco. Let’s say over a decade or two we go from 30,000 cars on the (Uber) system to a million. Well, there will still be routes then that software can’t do, it’ll be too hard. So you’ll need drivers in those software-equipped cars to help out. And way out, if everything’s autonomous, you’ll need tens of thousands of people to maintain a fleet of a million cars. So the jobs are there.”… (more)
Would you get in a driverless car? Would you rather drive or be a mechanic? Why let the robots have all the fun?