Regardless of how deeply he, or his company, inserts his foot into his mouth, he miraculously keeps spewing. And his company, Uber—the on-demand ridesharing service that promises to be “everyone’s private driver”—doesn’t stop growing.
This is a guy that affectionately calls his company “Boober,” referencing the benefits running it has brought him from those of the opposite sex. A company where executives talk about attacking reporters critical of their service at a dinner full of reporters. Where other executives abuse “god mode”—the ability to see where any user is currently—to stalk whomever they deem their prey.
A guy whose publicly stated endgame, and supposed basis for his company’s massive valuation, is that his company eating of the $11 billion American taxi industry is only an appetizer. The main dish Uber is ready to dig their teeth into is your personal automobile.
Ultimately Uber aims to dominate the whole transportation market with a fleet of autonomous cars always available in an instant. A network so ubiquitous, cheap and effortless you would laugh at the notion of owning your own vehicle.
“The reason Uber could be expensive is because you’re not just paying for the car — you’re paying for the other dude in the car,” Kalanick said last May. “When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost of taking an Uber anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle. So the magic there is, you basically bring the cost below the cost of ownership for everybody, and then car ownership goes away.”
When asked what he would tell the Uber drivers he is constantly fighting to recruit, retain and rolling, frat-bro-dude shrugged it off as the inevitable, “I’d say ‘Look, this is the way of the world, and the world isn’t always great.”
It isn’t always great, except for me the guy with the multi-billion dollar net worth.
But it definitely isn’t great for an Uber driver, the very-same resources that Kalanick depends on to build his company to a point where he can dispose of them in favor of our robotic overlords.
Oddly, Kalanick’s telling comments about the driverless future of Uber, came a day after the company claimed they had driver’s making $90,000 in New York City. STICK TO THE MESSAGE BOSS.
Lure in your workforce with big, flashy numbers and cash bonuses…Slowly whittle away their ability to make a living…Dispatch fleet of autonomous cars, eliminating the need to share profits with drivers…PROFIT
Don’t take it from me, instead listen to the Uber drivers themselves that are starting to realize the way Kalanick views them. In this open letter to Kalanick, a Miami Uber driver details how Uber’s most recent price-cuts are great for customers (and the company fighting for the all valuable market share) but awful for drivers.
Sadly for the drivers, the behavior won’t change anytime soon, as this interesting piece in Quartz last year argues the whole engine driving Uber’s massive growth is wealth inequality.
There are only two requirements for an on-demand service economy to work, and neither is an iPhone. First, the market being addressed needs to be big enough to scale—food, laundry, taxi rides. Without that, it’s just a concierge service for the rich rather than a disruptive paradigm shift, as a venture capitalist might say. Second, and perhaps more importantly, there needs to be a large enough labor class willing to work at wages that customers consider affordable and that the middlemen consider worthwhile for their profit margins.
Which is where we get back to Uber’s dream scenario—the driverless (and thus labor-cost-less) car. This interesting take on the massive disruption autonomous cars will drive in the future got me thinking about the strange balance Uber has struck so far.
HOW IN THE HELL DOES A COMPANY WHO HAS PUBLICLY STATED THEIR GOAL IS TO DISPLACE ALL DRIVERS ATTRACT DRIVERS?
Drivers who take a huge risk, willingly depreciate their vehicles, and consistently see their fares reduced.
The economics that make it more affordable for light-drivers in big cities to only use Uber, only exist because the economics don’t benefit Uber’s “partners.”
Truthfully, thanks to Uber there are a lot of winners, namely Kalanick, but consumers as well. But there are definitely losers, the drivers who continue to fall for Uber’s magic trick.