Pando

Uber hard at work on effort to replace drivers with machines

By Nathaniel Mott , written on May 22, 2015

From The News Desk

Travis Kalanick might be able to replace Uber's drivers faster than expected.

Pittsburgh Business Times has spotted a vehicle emblazoned with "Uber Advanced Technologies Center" on a side door. That vehicle is supposed to help the company develop the technology needed to power its self-driving vehicles.

This car has a driver, but it carries special equipment used as "part of our early research efforts regarding mapping, safety and autonomy systems," as Uber put it in an explanation for the vehicle's mishmash of electronic parts to the Verge.

Uber wants to develop self-driving cars because that could help it remove one of its biggest costs -- the human beings who drive Uber's customers around. That's not idle conjecture; it's something Kalanick said himself at a tech conference:

'I love [self driving cars] all day long,” he said. “The Uber experience is expensive because it’s not just the car but the other dude in the car. When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost [of taking an Uber] gets cheaper than owning a vehicle.'

When an audience member asked how drivers might feel about his dream of making them all redundant, he responded:

'I would say to them this is the way the world is going… We have to find a way to change with the world.' Not that Uber's alone in rejoicing over the prospect of a driverless future. Here's Pittsburgh Business Times quoting from a recently published Barclays report:

'By removing the driver from the equation (the largest cost in a taxi ride), the average cost per mile to the consumer could be 44 cents for a private ride in a standard sedan and 8 cents for a shared ride in a two-seater,' [Brian] Johnson wrote. It would also drop the rate of taking an Uber 'well below' the $3 to $3.50 a mile consumers now pay to ride in an UberX car or the $1 to $1.50 a mile for an UberPool vehicle, he said.
So remember to tip your Uber drivers, kids, because pretty soon they'll be replaced with autonomous vehicles that don't need a cut of Uber's revenues. Disruptors, as the ancient philosophers probably never said, gonna disrupt.