The fear that Uber drivers have had for a long time has finally come with the self-driving Uber that has debuted in Pittsburgh. This however should not come as a surprise to many as Travis Kalanick who is the co-founder and CEO of Uber had in 2014 during an interview predicted the end of human drivers to happen soon with the introduction of robot cars.
According to Kalanick, the reason Uber fares are high is because you are not just made to pay for the vehicle but also for the driver, and so when the robot cars debuts which will not need drivers to pilot them, the cost of taking Uber will become even cheaper than owning a private vehicle. This he added, will lead to a more friendly environment where driving will be safer.
The fear of loss of jobs is therefore imminent for Uber drivers, which Kalanick implicated but did not make specific. He however, noted that the robot cars will be first made available to loyal customers of Uber which will require the customer to input their destination while the self-driving car takes over. He added that there will be a two dozen sensors, cameras and a safety driver in front to take over from the robots if need be. This, we take it is to calm the fears of drivers that could lose their jobs.
In all these, it is very striking that Uber for the first time is actually getting/owning physical assets. They were known to operate in a virtual manner without owning cars or employing drivers at first. They have been known to spend a lot of money or development as well as research which was why their services were not so cheap, although they tried to avoid compounding the issue with ownership of cars and its maintenance/insurance and drivers’ benefits.
So Uber will now buy cars from Volvo or any other car maker and fit them with their self-driving technology which they will have to not just maintain but also insure.
This may sound like a lot of money, but it is still cheaper than paying for drivers. As of today, the rate that each driver of Uber gets is 65-80% of the price of ride reducing the amount Uber collects. So with the robots in place, the company could be raving in 100 percent.
With the robot, the company will make more money since there will be no limitation to the number of hours the robots can stay on the road as against the 12 hours a day that drivers are allowed to drive. The robot cars will only have to stop when they need to refuel or recharge.
This also means Uber will have to replace the cars more frequently as they will be exposed to a lot of wear and tear due to the frequency at which they are always on the road.
This does not mean that they will be doing this replacement immediately as they can spread it into many years.