Uber's growing fleet of human drivers already have plenty of issues with the service: operators in Seattle want to unionize because of alleged managerial discrimination and UberX drivers have protested in San Francisco over low fares. Now Uber CEO's embrace of a driverless car future has infuriated its operators yet again.
The trouble started three weeks ago, when Uber's CEO Travis Kalanick took the stage at the Re/code Code Conference and insultingly gushed about robot cars replacing its man-powered enterprise:
"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 at the conference. "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."
Now "the other dude in the car" is saying they'll "drive for someone else" if Uber doesn't start respecting them. According to CBS 5, "dozens of drivers" rallied outside of Uber's headquarters Monday, with the head of Uber Driver's Network saying Kalanick's statement "is very disturbing."
"He's not only misleading himself in by thinking self-driven vehicles will replace us, he's misleading the public. And he's done that many times."
They're not just protesting autonomous taxis. Uber's drivers say "they feel exploited, don't earn enough money and are taken for granted."
An Uber spokesperson dismissed the driver's concerns, saying "[Self-driving cars are] decades and decades and decades away from being a reality. Today we're more focused on what do they need today?" But it's not today driver's are concerned with—it's tomorrow. And when a company's CEO is already heralding that "other dude's" obsolescence, it's hard to believe they have that person's needs in mind.