Uber is assaulting the City of Austin at the moment and is pouring money into a local ballot initiative scheduled for May 7. As of March 31 or so, Uber and Lyft have spent over $2 million. My bet is that when the dust settles, that number will be over $5 million. That we know of. If not, it sure feels like it must feel in Iowa during caucus season.
If you’ve been following the anti-eviction campaign in San Francisco, you’ll know that this is what tech millionaires and billionaires do with their surplus. They write the laws the way they like them.
But what’s really interesting about Uber’s campaign in Austin is how much denial people are in about Uber’s ultimate goal. Here’s a good snapshot of The Plan directly from the company’s CEO, Travis Kalanick as reported by The Verge:
Uber will eventually replace the people who drive its cars with cars that drive themselves, CEO Travis Kalanick said today at the Code Conference. A day after Google unveiled the prototype for its own driverless vehicle, Kalanick was visibly excited at the prospect of developing a fleet of driverless vehicles, which he said would make car ownership rare.
Just so you get the idea, Google Ventures was an early and major investor in Uber. In fact, it probably would be fair to say that if it weren’t for Google and its own goals with driverless cars, Mr. Kalanick would be another dog running around Silicon Valley with a business plan in his mouth (to paraphrase Peter Guber’s definition of a producer).
He goes on:
“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. “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.”
Yes, that’s right. “Magic.”
I’ll be honest with you. I learned to drive in an MG TD that had this thing called a clutch. It had no power brakes, no power steering, no gas gauge, no roof, no roll bar, and you could fix it pretty much with a screwdriver and a monkey wrench. (As my instructor said, don’t run out of gas and don’t roll it and you’ll have no problems.)
That car could withstand a lot of things, including an electromagnetic pulse. It was loud and mean and smelled like a combination of brisket, Hoppe’s No. 9 and 100% dog.
That was magic.
So while Mr. Kalanick is planning the demise of drivers because they’re too expensive, he’s pitching Uber as a great thing for…drivers.
Asked about what he would tell the Uber drivers who will some day replaced, Kalanick said that day was still a long way off. But it’s also inevitable, he said. “I’d say ‘Look, this is the way of the world, and the world isn’t always great.’ We all have to find ways to change with the world.” His statement came a day after the company boasted that its drivers could earn $90,000 a year.