Pando

Kudos! Lyft and Uber boast they'll wipe out hundreds of thousands of jobs in a decade

By Paul Bradley Carr , written on September 19, 2016

From The Sharing Economy Desk

Writing on Medium, Lyft’s John Zimmer has confirmed what everyone with an ounce of common sense already knows: In 15 years, there will be no human Lyft drivers.

The admission brings Zimmer in line with Uber’s Travis Kalanick who has expressed excitement over the prospect of no more troublesome humans cluttering up his company.

What Lyft and Uber -- and pretty much everyone else -- have been silent on is the question of what happens to all those drivers once their jobs go away?

According to the Wall Street Journal, Uber has over 160,000 drivers in the US alone. That’s 160,000 part- or full- time jobs that will vanish in the next 15 years. 160,000 people who were sold by Uber on the idea of being their own boss and earning income on their own terms and all the other crap that Uber told drivers to sugar the pill of long hours, cripplingly low income and all the other risks and dangers that come with lining Travis Kalanick’s pockets. (Including, by the way, a large number of military vets who Kalanick has taken credit for getting back into the civilian workforce.)

Now add to that number all the Lyft-only drivers - slightly better treated, but just as underpaid and expendable -- and the relatively small number of drivers for other ridesharing companies. Now throw in another few thousand for the other sharing economy jobs -- food delivery principally -- which will vanish once delivery vehicles can drive themselves. And, for good measure, sling in all the taxi drivers who were put out of work by the rise of the ridesharing giants.

What are all these people supposed to do? Where are the other jobs opening up that offer the much-touted flexibility of the gig economy?

Kalanick and Zimmer would say, with some justification, that’s not their problem to solve. They’ve done their part and now blah blah blah progress. And perhaps new companies will pop up in the gig economy to take the place of the ridesharing giants.

Zimmer also tries to put a silver lining on the cloud by saying that for five whole years after self-driving cars become viable, there will actually be more drivers needed not less:

Some people assume that the introduction of autonomous vehicles will mean human drivers are no longer needed. We believe that in the first five or more years following the introduction of autonomous vehicles, the need for human drivers will actually increase, not decrease. How is that possible? Rides in autonomous vehicles will be less expensive than any options today and will lead to more people using Lyft for more and more of their transportation needs. As people rely on Lyft for more of their transportation, they are more likely to live car-free. And as more people trade their keys for Lyft, the overall market will grow dramatically. When autonomous cars can only solve a portion of those trips, more Lyft drivers will be needed to provide service to the growing market of former car owners.

Uber has made similar claims about a short term bump in human drivers before the total drop off.

But what neither company can deny is that,  in a little over a decade, a lot of places -- particularly cities like San Francisco where locals are already struggling to make rent -- are going to face a serious jump in unemployment numbers.

Given how much hay Kalanick and Zimmer have made out of the hundreds of thousands jobs -- sorry -- economic opportunities created by their platform, shouldn’t they receive an equal amount of criticism now they’re promising to make that same number of jobs simply disappear?

Instead we get self-promotional Medium posts selling mass unemployment and hundreds of thousands of destroyed livelihoods as “The Third Transportation Revolution.”

Fist bump.