By Doug Porter
A decision by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen rejecting a legal settlement that would have divided up to $100 million among about 380,000 Uber drivers to resolve claims they’ve been treated as independent contractors instead of employees may be beside the point.
The settlement would have paid as much as $8,000 to some drivers, but the majority would receive $24 or less. And the question of their status would largely remain unresolved.
In any case, it looks like Uber’s planning on just dumping its people. The San Francisco-based ride share company, according to Bloomberg, is rolling out a program to test robo-rides in Pittsburgh this month, with the goal of replacing its one million drivers with automated vehicles as quickly as possible.
Starting later this month, Uber will allow customers in downtown Pittsburgh to summon self-driving cars from their phones, crossing an important milestone that no automotive or technology company has yet achieved. Google, widely regarded as the leader in the field, has been testing its fleet for several years, and Tesla Motors offers Autopilot, essentially a souped-up cruise control that drives the car on the highway. Earlier this week, Ford announced plans for an autonomous ride-sharing service. But none of these companies has yet brought a self-driving car-sharing service to market.
Uber’s Pittsburgh fleet, which will be supervised by humans in the driver’s seat for the time being, consists of specially modified Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicles outfitted with dozens of sensors that use cameras, lasers, radar, and GPS receivers. Volvo Cars has so far delivered a handful of vehicles out of a total of 100 due by the end of the year. The two companies signed a pact earlier this year to spend $300 million to develop a fully autonomous car that will be ready for the road by 2021…
…In Pittsburgh, customers will request cars the normal way, via Uber’s app, and will be paired with a driverless car at random. Trips will be free for the time being, rather than the standard local rate of $1.05 per mile. In the long run, Kalanick says, prices will fall so low that the per-mile cost of travel, even for long trips in rural areas, will be cheaper in a driverless Uber than in a private car. “That could be seen as a threat,” says Volvo Cars CEO Hakan Samuelsson. “We see it as an opportunity.”
It’s More Than Uber
Automation of the driving process is coming at us faster than a semi barreling across the desert. By 2035, Navigant research estimates sales of autonomous vehicles will reach 95.4 million annually, representing 75% of all light-duty vehicle sales.”
And that’s before we consider heavy-duty vehicles. Driving a truck is the leading job category in the vast majority of states.
From Scott Santens, via Medium:
It should be clear at a glance just how dependent the American economy is on truck drivers. According to the American Trucker Association, there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the US, and an additional 5.2 million people employed within the truck-driving industry who don’t drive the trucks. That’s 8.7 million trucking-related jobs.
We can’t stop there though, because the incomes received by these 8.2 million people create the jobs of others. Those 3.5 million truck drivers driving all over the country stop regularly to eat, drink, rest, and sleep. Entire businesses have been built around serving their wants and needs. Think restaurants and motels as just two examples. So now we’re talking about millions more whose employment depends on the employment of truck drivers. But we still can’t even stop there.
Those working in these restaurants and motels along truck-driving routes are also consumers within their own local economies. Think about what a server spends her paycheck and tips on in her own community, and what a motel maid spends from her earnings into the same community. That spending creates other paychecks in turn. So now we’re not only talking about millions more who depend on those who depend on truck drivers, but we’re also talking about entire small town communities full of people who depend on all of the above in more rural areas. With any amount of reduced consumer spending, these local economies will shrink.
Santens estimates that the automation of driving will begin to disrupt the economy by 2025. That’s just nine years away.
There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about the gig economy taking up the slack from jobs losses and pay stagnation from globalization. Now it’s looking like major parts of the gig and traditional economies are no longer going to be sources of employment.
Santens and other are promoting discussions about basic universal income. This is a complicated topic and I’m not about to tackle it all here, but this article by Santens does a good job of addressing the most obvious questions, like ‘no, it’s not the same as communism?’ and ‘what about the moochers?’
It should be obvious by now that the concept of a mostly market driven society has flopped for most of us. If we continue on the same economic path, the additional 10 million-plus people about to lose their livelihood thanks to the automation of transportation are largely going to be left by the wayside. And that’s before we talk about the million+ people already losing jobs in the retail sector.
As Santens says in closing his article on the automation of driving:
No one should be asking what we’re going to do if computers take our jobs.
We should all be asking what we get to do once freed from them.
I’m not saying Universal Basic Income is the answer. I am saying that things are about to change big-time. So, what are we going to do about it?
Weekly Progressive Calendar: Upcoming in San Diego
Get your event listed: I try to list the next 10 days or so of mostly non-commercial events I think our readers might find of interest. I source my material from social media listings and press releases. In cases where there are competing but similar events or campaigns of the progressive persuasion, I do my best to list everything.
Unfortunately, my subscription to the psychic hotline has lapsed so if you don’t tell me or Facebook, etc., about your event it won’t get listed. See my email address at the end of this column.
Friendship Park 45th Anniversary Celebration
CELEBRATE FRIENDSHIP – PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE … On August 18, 1971, Pat Nixon envisioned a park where friendships between the US & Mexico would be celebrated. Join us as we work to reimagine her vision for the 21st century. Meet at El Faro in Playas de Tijuana … or atop Monument Mesa on the US side in Border Field State Park. Bring a picnic lunch!
Protest at Del Mar Race Track
California Chrome’s Race For His Life
Saturday, August 20, 11:30am
Del Mar Race Track
2260 Jimmy Durante Blvd
Info & Updates
Next Saturday in addition to racing younger horses California Chrome will be raced even after a severe injury.
California Chrome was foaled on February 18, 2011, near Coalinga, California, at Harris Farms, the horse breeding division of the Harris Ranch
Also please leave your companion animals at home. The pavement is extremely hot and there is no safe place for dogs or other animals.
NO TPP – Push on Congress
Friday, August 19, 6:30
3130 Moore St (Old Town)
Info & Updates
This is one of many organizing parties across the nation to galvanize people to pressure our Members of Congress to vote NO on the secret, undemocratic Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. We want to do some actions before Congress returns from their August recess after Labor Day. Learn how YOU can help!
Beyond Bernie: Uniting the Political Revolution
Saturday, August 20, 1pm
Logan Heights Public Library
567 S. 28th St.
Info & Updates:
Now that the Democratic National Convention is over, what do we do next ? Where do we go next ?
San Diego Progressives, UNITE !!!
Come hear reports from inside and outside the DNC. Participate in workshops about issues you care about. Come with your ideas and proposals to build a populist movement for social and economic justice. Signup on Meetup: http://meetu.ps/2YVxv0
Annual Suffrage Parade
Wednesday, August 24, 5pm
Info & Updates
Celebrate Women’s Equality Day as we commemorate the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, August 26,1920. Dress up in period costume, reflecting this special day. Don’t forget to share photos of yourself dressed up and waving your votes for women signs using #SuffrageParade!
Meet in the lawn area across from the Organ Pavilion for the Suffrage Rally, followed with the Suffrage Parade through the Prado and Organ Pavilion areas. Enjoy light refreshments while listening to the Moxie San Diego Girls Band, 6:30 – 7:30 P.M.
Look for The Women’s Museum of California Banners under the trees near the west entrance to the Organ Pavilion behind the UN Building.
Brand New Congress Organizing Kickoff in San Diego
Friday, August 26, 7pm
3130 Moore Street (Old Town)
Info & Updates
Hey everyone! We’re continuing the revolution with a campaign to elect a Brand New Congress! Come meet national and local BNC organizers and supporters and let’s get this thing started in New San Diego! This event is an opportunity to learn more about BNC, join a volunteer team, suggest members of your community who would make great representatives and meet some amazing new people.
Summer Vegetarian BBQ at
The Ocean Beach Green Center
Saturday, August 27 1-6pm
4843 Voltaire St
Honoring 90’s Activists! Music, Speakers, Refreshments – Come celebrate and hear from local 90’s activists with Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Ocean Beach Greens, Earth First and others. A Great Community Event!
No TPP – Push on Congress Congressional Vigils
This is one of many actions across the nation to galvanize people to pressure our Members of Congress to vote NO on the secret, undemocratic Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, before Congress returns from their August recess after Labor Day. We will stand on the sidewalk in front of the building where Congressman Scott Peters’ District Office is with signs and banners.
Wednesday, August 31st
Congresswoman Susan Davis Office (9-5)
2700 Adams Ave
Info & Updates
This is one of many actions across the nation to galvanize people to pressure our Members of Congress to vote NO on the secret, undemocratic Trans-Pacifuc Partnership Agreement, before Congress returns from their August recess after Labor Day. We will stand on the sidewalk in front of the building where Congresswoman Susan Davis’ District Office is with signs and banners.
On This Day: 1848 – The discovery of gold in California was reported by the New York Herald. 1909 – First edition of IWW Little Red Song Book published 1964 – The first American tour by the Beatles began in San Francisco. The tour would cover 26 cities.
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