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Uber Posts $5.2B Loss and Slowest Ever Growth Rate (nytimes.com)
425 points by jumelles 16 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 501 comments



Uber and lyft are both on the way down. The price at which they need to operate to be profitable is not a price that most americans are ready to pay. As simple as that.

For now they delay this reality by subsidizing rides in order to generate business. In some cities like San Francisco, most incentives were removed and among my friends we all stopped using Uber (unless we really have to). It simply became way too expensive.

(Comment that I already issued yesterday on a similar thread)


To qualify your comment:

The line item in Uber's results you want to look at here is "Excess Driver Incentives" which covers:

"Cumulative payments to a Driver could exceed cumulative revenue from a Driver as a result of Driver incentives or when the amount paid to a Driver for a Trip exceeds the fare charged to the consumer."

What's really interesting here is that year over year this number went down substantially ($21m total) for their "Ridesharing" eg their core platform is subsidizing substantially fewer rides today as a percentage of overall revenue than it was a year ago.

But that total "Excess Driver Incentives" line item exploded upwards from $221,000,000 to $544,000,000 for just their uber eats platform!

That means that your rides were somewhat subsidized and getting better, but your hamburger's ride was subsidized to the tune of a half billion dollars :)

And further qualifying this the Uber Eats business unit doubled in revenue but the incentives grew at an even faster rate.

https://investor.uber.com/news-events/news/press-release-det...


One of the big outstanding macro questions is how these businesses perform in a recession. If (or when) an inevitable contraction occurs, how quick are millennials to trade a daily uber eats habit for weekly groceries and meal prep at home.


This industry has already been exposed to a recession. You just need to let your mind think beyond US borders.


Details?


Brazil


Not really relevant as Uber's main market and revenue center is definitely not Brazil...


The important thing is what impact that recession has on the business model. Is the business model counter-cyclical or at least recession resistant? Not all business models perform the same in a recession.


During a recession: On the demand side, people cut back on spending (on Ubers, for example). On the supply side, some laid-off workers will turn to the gig economy.


This is what people just do not seem to get.

I think it's more the massive amount of spending they do with little to nothing to show for it. They spent $457m last year on autonomous and flying cars with $0 in revenue from those projects. Maybe that will work out, but I bet every penny was ultimately wasted.

Not spending billions a year on R&D certainly makes the financials look nicer. It might not attract as nice of a multiple, but it's not the ride prices that are out of whack at Uber IMO.


On the other hand, they spent $0.5 billion on R&D in a year, and lost $5 billion in a quarter, so I don’t think the R&D is nearly as significant an issue as subsidizing rides.


They booked an expense of $3.1bn in R&D last quarter. Even excluding the $2.6bn linked to stock-based compensation it’s $0.5bn per quarter. But of course that includes useful R&D and not just the flying-cars kind.


"R&D" usually includes all engineering expenses on financial reports, which for a company like Uber is the vast majority of operating expenses.


Can I ask something that will sound incredibly naive?

How complicated needs to be an IT infrastructure that lets you book a taxi via an app and pay the driver? Is it really something to throw billions at each year? Sometimes I feel these companies are throwing billions in IT simply because they're expected to be disruptive technology companies, and not for real technical reasons.


I imagine a driver-passenger matchmaking system could be craigslist level of simplicity, but Uber and Lyft want to suck up every piece of data: ingesting and analyzing where people are when they open the app, how many people give up on finding a driver, how long every driver is idling on the side of the road, whether a user is probably a cop, etc etc

They use this data to update their surge pricing by the minute for all these different geofences all over the world... yeah, I think having the self image of a technology company that wanted to attract the best talent definitely created a lot of expensive problems for itself.


At a minimum drivers need to be tracked in real time from the point they respond to the point passengers are picked up, and preferably tracked throughout trips due to various concerns, so it definitely can’t be Craigslist level of simplicity.


There are similar, smaller services (like Via, or myTaxi in Europe) that work fine and have nowhere near the money that Uber spends on their tech stack.

Ride sharing is extremely local, so it's not like you need any cleverly scalable tech. Most places will be tracking a few hundred cars at any given moment. Only in very large cities like NYC would you need to spend a little more on big servers.

What Uber presumably does is collect and analyze a lot of real-time data, which isn't strictly necessary to provide the service they're providing.


Uber as a product is very technologically complex, mainly because of the scale it operates at. You can read about some of their tech at https://eng.uber.com.


From that page I can see that they created their own deep learning framework, their own AI conversational agents, their own data science platform, their own geospatial indexing system, their own web applications framework, etc. The list seems to go on and on and on.

Essentially they seem to be repeating whatever Google and Facebook are doing: but those are pure technology companies that serve two orders of magnitude more customers and have contributed building the web as we know it. Uber is a taxi company.


Only if you want to have a huge and complex system. If you have small and localized ones, it should be very cheap.


Ye, like one VM running per city or region. I feel they are just sinking money into software and administration of software.


WhatsApp has shown that you can actually build large-scale system infrastructures very efficiently. And they had global service, Uber could profit from sharding as you suggest.


Apply for a job at Uber proposing a cut in engineering expenses with your plan and become instantly rich.


And never get hired because the people doing interviews have to protect their jobs :)


> Uber as a product is very technologically complex, mainly because of the scale it operates at.

Also because when Uber was young, it was not motivated to seek profits or consider expenses, it was just growth at any cost. Once that work culture is established, it can be hard to shake.


It doesn’t!

You can read here on HN how their large IT staff spends most of its time migrating back and forth between MySQL and Postgres.


But in this case they clearly don't: Operations and support ($864m), Sales and marketing ($1.2b), General and administrative ($1.6b). They have bloated costs all over. Easy to do when you're the hottest VC backed company around, but the clock is ticking and they'll probably trim a lot of fat.


Yeah my point was people shouldn't look at it and think "self driving car research". Every engineer at Uber is paid out of that budget.


That’s why I said it included useful R&D.


And last quarter was somewhat unusual due to the SBC charges allocated mostly to R&D. Looking at Q1:

  Cost of revenue $1.68bn
  Operations and support $434mn
  Sales and marketing $1.04bn
  Research and development $409mn
  General and administrative $423mn


R&D is the only way that they survive in the long term. Uber's entire plan is just to keep hemorrhaging money until autonomous vehicles come online. They just did not expect that to be as hard of a problem as it has turned out to be.


The only way they survive as such a richly valued company perhaps, my point is they could provide the current level of service with vastly lower spending and be a sustainable company. The financial problems aren't they charge too little for rides, it's that they have thousands of people working on bullshit that brings in little to nothing.


Sorry, but I have to disagree. R&D is the life blood of a tech company. Some problems are hard. Hard problems take a lot of time and money to solve. If they spend $2B solving a problem that allows them to make $10B in revenue long term, I would say that is a worthwhile investment, wouldn't you?

Frankly, the R&D spend is the least of their worries. They recently trimmed some fat from their marketing department[1] but the subsidized rides problem continues to be the biggest issue they face financially.

[1]: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/29/technology/uber-job-cuts....


I'm suggesting that ride sharing doesn't have to be a tech company. I just want to get across town, there's no requirement that the company that does this has to fund flying car research or have fancy offices around the globe.


I travel across Asia Pacific for work. The global nature of ride hailing apps are convenient in this context in a similar way to MacDonalds (fast, convenient and you kind of know what you’re going to get).

Try hailing a cab in Thailand, Indonesia or Malaysia. They will ask your destination and quote you 5-10x meter fare. Use a ride hailing app and you get approximately the meter fare.


Speaking for Thailand, the ride hailing apps are usually 1.5x - 2x the price of the meter.


That's fair but the vast majority of cabs I hail refuse to use meter (sometimes quite aggressively).


> R&D is the life blood of a tech company.

Uber is not a tech company. It’s a taxi-company with a fancy app.

There’s literally no reason their operating expenses should be this big.


I hope they don't actually think that. Autonomous vehicles will turn a two sided market into a one sided market. Just think about all the companies working on self driving cars that don't currently compete with Uber. As soon as they succeed, they'll build an app, buy thousands of cars, and cut the per ride price to nothing.


Edit: misread comment. What I meant was that even with autonomous cars, there will probably be a huge market leader (but it won't necessarily be Uber).


It doesn't take dozens. GM, Tesla, and Google are already making the expensive part of the investment (developing ai cars in the first place). Will Uber make more money with one competitor or four?

I mean, is there a chance these three companies develope autonomous vehicles and decide NOT to compete in ride sharing?


Well we already know Tesla (RoboTaxi) and Google (Waymo One) are entering the ride sharing market (Waymo One is currently live), not sure about GM's ambitions.


But if autonomous vehicles are ever a thing, where does Uber actually add value? Wouldn’t Tesla etc just “cut out the middleman” and capture that value themselves?

Also Uber as a company has zero experience of owning and maintaining a fleet of vehicles. They’ve entirely sidestepped that problem. What evidence is there they can do it better than anyone who does do it, like say Hertz?


Autonomous vehicles replace the drivers, not Uber.

The vehicles get told to go from point A to point B and does safely and effectively. Uber still plays the role of interacting with the customers, "booking" a car for them, collecting payments, etc.


DACs need to disrupt Uber and all the other P2P marketplaces. Eventually they will, IMHO (maybe starting with P2P rides?).


Yeah, that's not going to happen in large parts of the world.

Autonomous vehicles will never work in the chaos of Delhi or Jakarta's traffic


“AI will never” is a phrase you should remove from your vocabulary. No hate just facts. Right now is the beginning of the end.


> They spent $457m last year on autonomous and flying cars with $0 in revenue from those projects.

I sincerely hope they weren't expecting any revenue from those for the next decade or two. Anything else would be delusional.


I think both Uber, Lyft and (to some extent) Tesla have been working on autonomous cars because it's not an immediately implausible way for them to turn profitable.

I personally agree it's a multi-decade (if ever) thing, but if Uber et al. claim they'll have it in 2 years, without facts on the table it boils down to who the investors believe in.


Even if autonomous cars were 99.99% reliable tomorrow, it would take a decade to get through regulators. Maybe longer.


Can they sustain 5B losses for a decade? Can any investor?


Softbank can.


The difference between taxi fares and Uber/Lyft fares has all but vanished. People were willing to pay taxi rates all along, now they are doing so and getting what is arguably a much better service.


I can't speak for everyone, but for me it was never about the cost. It was about the ability to easily/instantly schedule a ride without having to call a phone number and wait for a ride which was notoriously unreliable, and not having to deal with cash or the classic line "my credit card machine doesn't work."

Virtually all of the cab companies still around now have mobile apps and many of them have all the features that Uber/Lyft have (card payment via app, car-tracking, etc).

It's still a win for the consumer, even if you're using old school cab companies.


Question is, which cab app are you going to download, especially when you're traveling? If you use Uber/Lyft (especially the former), you're practically guaranteed that you'll be able to use it at your destination.


Lyft only operates in the US, so that seems like it's not true at least for one of the two.


Most of American's day to day travel is in the US though. The majority of us "might" travel outside the US for a week or two, but otherwise it's safe to say lyft is in the city you're traveling to.


I'd google "cab app in country <x>". Some places it's not Uber. Vietnam it's Grab, Germany I think you have to use a regular cab.


@tim333, In Germany, you could use, e.g., "MyTaxi" which is now called "FreeNow" since a recent, hilariously bad rebranding attempt(1) by its owner Daimler.

(1) BMW and Daimler will invest $1B in their new joint venture (https://www.your-now.com/) that brings their mobility services under one roof.


This is 100% true for me as well. I am, in fact, willing to pay MORE for an Uber- or Lyft-like service than for a traditional cab, because the experience is generally much better.

However, I also have to acknowledge that I think I'm an outlier, because I have many friends (most of whom could easily afford it) who complain about prices every time this topic comes up. I think that as a society we'd be better off if people could truly internalize the truth of "you get what you pay for," and stop buying solely based on price, but that's not the world we live in.


It‘s super easy to call a cab in Germany and they arrive within 5-10 minutes. A lot of them are nice Mercedes. I really don’t see how doing a call that takes ~30 seconds and paying by cash that you carry around anyways (~100€ in cash on hand is super normal in Germany) is any worse than booking a ride through Über.


If you go out of Germany you'll see that Germany is pretty unique in it's love for cash. Especially striking when you go north. The more north you go from Germany, the less cash there is, with plenty of places in say Sweden or Estonia where cash isn't even accepted. Thus suddenly having to have cash for a taxi is very jarring. (I don't even remember the last time I paid for anything in cash in Estonia. Definitely more than 10 years ago. On the flipside, every small city restaurant I visited in Germany in 2019 didn't accept cards.)

As for a ~30 second call resulting in a success story, that does sound pretty good indeed.

Let me tell you what my decades of taxi ordering experience in Estonia looks like. I call a taxi company [1], wait about a minute, nobody even picks up the phone. I try another company. I finally get someone to pick up, I tell them where I am, and they proceed to tell me that they have no taxis available. I have to call a new company. Eventually when the 5th company promises to send a taxi, there's a greater than 10% chance that they never show up. Sometimes I call the taxi company and they say the driver went on a break. Other times they say the driver picked up someone else on the way to my location. Sometimes the company has no clue whatsoever why the taxi didn't arrive.

With this old system, whenever I was in a rush, the most time-optimal plan was to run to the closest taxi stop and physically find a taxi.

The arrival of Uber & friends has mostly removed this nonsense. It's all so much more reliable. Although not 100%, sometimes when I'm ordering from a suburb, the driver will call me and ask if I'm willing to pay extra in cash for them to come out. If I say no, they cancel the order.

--

[1] All these calls are to reasonably priced taxi companies, similar to Uber pricing. If I were willing to pay 3x price, there are plenty of premium taxi companies who will come and roll out the red carpet in exchange for your wallet.


I live in a mid-sized city in the US. Before Uber and Lyft, if I wanted to get a ride, I had to call into a central number (sometimes with a 5-10 minute hold) and then had to schedule a ride. IF someone was available right away, it would typically take 30 minutes for them to arrive - and it's not uncommon for them to simply never show up. The cars are not Mercedes, but your regular utilitarian cabs. What you are describing sounds great, but is far from the norm in the world.

I don't mind cash but I rarely have it on me.


Maybe you don't speak German?


> People were willing to pay taxi rates all along

Baloney. The market size of people willing to pay taxi rates for transportation is much smaller that the market sizes currently implied by Uber and Lyft's valuation. Before Uber and Lyft, most people I know would only take taxis very occasionally, for special occasions or emergencies. Once Uber and Lyft started offering such good rates they would use ride sharing much more often.


Consider pool rides -- which were never part of the traditional offerings. Pool rides from Uber/Lyft lowered cost while expanding the market.

Consider all the places where you needed a taxi but wouldnt know how to hail one -- Uber/Lyft expanded the market here.

I was recently in Taiwan and needed a ride, but could not describe the address to a driver who did not speak English. Uber to the rescue -- again the market got expanded.

It isnt all about cost.


Uber/Lyft are also great when you can expense your trips.

Not having to deal with (local) cash or a constantly “broken” credit card machine are also pluses.


Uber and Lyft can now feed receipts directly into corporate expense reporting systems which is a major time saver for frequent business travelers.


There are some hospital EHRs that integrate too, so you can book your patients a ride to/from. If they get there late or don’t arrive, it’s a big cost.


I found that if I used my corp card, transit stuff was automatically categorized just fine.


It’s getting your taxi driver to take your card in the first place that can be an issue. I guess they’re high risk merchants and pay high rates?

Then you may require the actual receipt for your expense. Sometimes the Corp wants more than a credit card invoice for their accounting.


It’s getting your taxi driver to take your card in the first place that can be an issue. I guess they’re high risk merchants and pay high rates?

The only place I've seen acceptance be a problem is San Francisco (although I've certainly heard it's a problem in other American cities). I can't speak to other cities but in San Francisco the cabbies are required to pay pretty hefty fees for credit card usage. But Uber and Lyft take a big chunk of the pie and leave no cash option so there's that.

I've been to a couple cities where credit cards were not accepted as a general rule (cabbies didn't even have the equipment). But in cities where I've used a card I've asked and generally been told they'd never do anything that ridiculous. Of course I typically have a strong preference for public transit so cab rides are the exception rather than the rule for me.

As for accounting, merchants already get a category assigned to them by their credit card processor. Generally there's enough specificity that something like a few cab rides shouldn't need much more clarification (although receipts may be required if you cross a threshold or exhibit some suspicious pattern).


Taxis would give me blank receipts and tell me to fill in the amount. Free money!

Now Uber and Lyft has made it harder to embezzle from my job :(


I was recently in Taiwan and needed a ride, but could not describe the address to a driver who did not speak English. Uber to the rescue -- again the market got expanded.

The only time I've been in a situation where I needed to take a taxi but didn't speak a common language was in Paris. I simply showed the driver the address as written and he got us there with no problems whatsoever. Granted Paris is pretty easy that way as rides (both taxi and Uber) from the airport are fixed price.

Alternatively I bet just pulling up the location on a mapping app would be enough. Of course in most countries I've been to, the public transit infrastructure was good enough that I never wanted to bother with a taxi of any sort.


I don't really disagree with what you're saying. My point is that Uber's market cap of nearly 75 billion dollars implies they will be taking a lot more of the world's overall transportation budget than, say, pool rides will account for.


At least for me, when I needed one, the issues with taxis was NEVER the cost. It was FINDING one of the damn things.


In many places it's all but near impossible to get a taxi in a timely manner, money wasn't the only thing preventing people from using them.


I rarely took taxis because of the cost. Uber and Lyft value is their price and the ease of getting a ride. However, as we know, this is not a sustainable model (Extremely discount rides.).

Kinda sucks to see as I think the idea of the service is good.


I think what he is saying is the demand for Lyft / Uber was manufactured by low prices. Now that they are more expensive, people are using public transit more.


Except total rides on both platforms are at all time highs?


Well they are covering more markets internationally. Wonder what happened in mature market (ie: big north american cities)


So is public transit ridership


I agree with this.

Even if rates went up to what cabs were (still cheaper in SF in my experience), I wouldn't switch back to cabs. I'd still user Uber/Lyft for the convenience and higher quality product.


I'm confused about people mentioning "higher quality product" and others sharing stories about riding in cars with big holes in the floor, drivers peeing in bottles, etc.

Are those stories very uncommon, or does the cab market in SF etc. manage to be even less quality?

Round here, a cab is at worst an 8 year old Toyota Prius, at best a new Mercedes or a Tesla, and the cab companies all have apps that let you book rides and see where the car picking you up is right now.


I still see some Crown Vics rolling around in El Paso


Not many people were using cabs for regular travel before Uber and Lyft though.


Uber Pool and Lyft Line opened up a new product price point for a huge number of consumers that taxis couldn't hit.


> now they are doing so and getting what is arguably a much better service.

Only until Uber and Lyft run out of cash (a few more quarters based on cash on hand), at which point taxi fares will rise to properly reflect the actual cost of the service.

People will choose a combination of walking, public transit, traditional cab companies, and perhaps an e-scooter and/or bicycle. We lived before Uber and Lyft, we'll live after them. Fun experiment while it lasted.


After my experiences having grown up with cabs, I am honestly willing to pay a significant premium to use Uber and Lyft.

It is not an understatement to say that I hate traditional taxis. I hate the terrible service. I hate having them refuse fares based on where I'm going. I hate calling to schedule a pickup in advance and the driver just not bothering to show up. I hate being pressured to pay in cash instead of credit card and having them berate and insult me when I insist on card. I hate having to be on alert to see if they're taking a deliberately longer route or running up the meter. I hate the verbal and sexual harassment they have doled out to me and my friends with no consequences, because there is absolutely nothing in their business model that provides them any incentive to treat their customers with courtesy and respect.

I want to see taxis crash and burn, I want to see them fail, I want to see them removed from my experience on this earth. I don't think I'm alone in that, and I will continue to use Uber and Lyft and pay far more than taxis because they provide an exceptionally better service.

Also Uber Pool/Lyft Line are brilliant and taxis will never bother to replicate that kind of efficiency.


With all due respect (I can appreciate paying more for quality, I do so myself!), there are not enough of you to justify rideshare valuations (which are based on taking over the world, not being a boutique transportation network for the discerning mobility user).


Agreed, their current valuations cannot be justified. I'd argue the same can be said of most tech companies right now, though. At some point the markets are going to have to acknowledge that taking over the world/infinite growth is just not going to happen for all (or any) of the companies promising it, and some incredibly disappointing and painful market adjustments will have to be made. I am hoping some rideshare companies - or similar competitors - can ride it out and eventually settle into something more realistic with higher fares, because I believe the market is there. I think the world in general needs to start thinking about what it looks like to make sustainable companies instead of cancer-like world-conquering monoliths. It may not be a reasonable dream, though - Uber is definitely too far gone. I'm less certain about Lyft.


In the past month, I and friends/family have experienced the following with Uber:

- Accusations of racism

- Dangerous driving

- Detours/no idea where they're going

- Being held hostage (took 4 very strong demands to be let out)

- Given a lecture because the driver couldn't find the address and told if you don't like the service to get out.

The grass isn't always greener


Sure, those problems can still exist with Uber - but drivers who cause problems are systematically weeded out over time. I've had my fair share of issues, but it makes a big difference to me that once I give a driver a bad rating/report them to Uber they will never be matched with me again, and if they consistently deliver bad experiences they will eventually be removed altogether. A taxi driver can exhibit the same bad behaviour for decades and suffer no consequences. The human element always means bad actors will be present, but under rideshares they are removed over time (and customer input is taken seriously) and under taxis they thrive (customer reports of harassment are literally laughed at). The helplessness is infuriating.

I have a bad experience maybe 10% of the time I take a rideshare, with taxis it's more like 75%. That does mean bad experiences will continue to happen either way, but I still favour the former and will pay more for it. Plus ridesharing still has the benefit of pooling, knowing costs up front, paying through cards without harassment, having the company keep a detailed record of your pickup/dropoff and route so reports of issues can be substantiated, quickly rescheduling if a driver fails to show (plus a map to see when a driver is not on route), etc. I think it's a clear win - at worst they share some of the problems taxis have, but taxis share none of the benefits that rideshares have.


> A taxi driver can exhibit the same bad behaviour for decades and suffer no consequences

We take taxis quite seriously in England. They are granted licences from the local government (the council). They are overseen by Licensing Officers.

I've only reported a taxi driver once (I can't recall exactly what for, but it wasn't anything too egregious), but it seemed like a swift and thorough investigation. They quicky summoned the driver to their office to explain himself and then gave me a report on the matter.

Customer input seemed to be taken quite seriously.

However, it seems the licensing framework does seem centred around drivers' criminal convictions, so the police would have to be involved in serious matters.


Unless Uber keeps its drivers to account, this is unacceptable. Nobody should have to be scared of their own taxi driver.


I take rideshare services multiple times per week with zero problems. Maybe it has something to do with the region/city? I've had the occasional issues, and in a few cases I've gotten out and called another car. But around 98% of the time it's completely frictionless.


Never had the 70 year old driver who drives 5mph under the speed limit and stops for any thing that looks like its near the road? Then I say your post is a big lie!


I don't believe that Uber/Lyft/Someone can't operate a ride sharing service at a profit. Taxis have done it for decades and now that the technologies have been invented, I don't see any reason Uber/Lyft can't ever be profitable. They may not be profitable enough to justify the amount of investment they've received, but they'll likely still exist in some for or another.

The cat is out of the bag. Nobody is going back to taxis.


> they are doing so and getting what is arguably a much better service.

Not sure if I agree. The convenience of the Uber/Lyft app's is still superior to a taxi service in most cases. The only time I'll take a cab is if it happens to be right in front of me and I'm in a hurry.


I really hope they both implode.

The blitzscaling strategy might in fact work but it would effectively be an end to democracy. We would basically have a marketplace of ALL monopolies.

It just doesn't scale.


Blitzscaling doesn't let you produce monopolies unless you have someone constantly bankrolling the beating down of competitors. As soon as Uber runs out of other people's money then the issue stops. The fact that Lyft exists shows that they can't monopolize.


To figure out Uber's core business economics look at Lyft's Contribution Margin which rose to 46%. Uber's, which includes a lot more immature markets, went back positive to around 9%.

ie, core business prints money.


Could you elaborate how much were fares before they removed subsidies and after?


I used to take Uber pools at around 4-5$ in San Francisco. Now it rarely is below 10$, which is too expensive for a service that is essentially very slow. Most of the time I go faster by walking or taking one of those electrical scooters.


I remember 3 years ago all my pools and lines in SF were $2.50. Now it is usually $6-7. I think these companies have changed our habits.


Over what distance, may I ask?


I do ocean beach (richmond) to fidi (~7 miles) and vice-versa at rush hours and it's usually around $7-10. Up from $5-8 a few months ago.

Getting out of fidi at 5pm can sometimes be slow w/ pool (20+ min wait), especially if the driver gets stuck in traffic e.g. on bush leading to market because of some rando accident on 101. Taking an uber at any other time or location has mostly been fine for me (5 min wait times tops), and it's not that uncommon to have 5 min wait times even out of fidi at 5pm.


I can't speak to SF, but here in Chicago, they have been gradually getting higher each year. I have consistently taken an Uber to work every morning for about 5 years now, and I used to pay $5-7 for the ride, but now it is $9-12.

I will say though, the huge benefit now is their rewards have a "price protection" [1] for some tiers that allow for a cap on that ride price, so I think it can no longer go above $10.99 or something. That has helped a ton from it getting higher. But that's only available for some of the higher tiers in their rewards program, I believe.

[1] https://help.uber.com/riders/article/price-protection-on-a-r...


That seems more expensive than owning a car. Assuming 5 workdays a week and 2 rides per day then that is 40 rides a month on average which could be anywhere from $360 to $480 a month.


You also have to factor in gas, renting a parking space for the car at home AND at work, taxes, insurance, convenience, etc. It's one of those things like renting. Yeah, in the long run, purely financially, buying would probably be cheaper, but a lot more factors go into it in real life that doesn't make it as black and white. For me, not owning a car is still much better overall, currently.

Also, as I mentioned in another comment, it's just rides to work in the morning. I take public transportation home after work.


I'll bite.

I keep track of all my numbers. For the 86 months I had my last car, I paid an average of $236/mo.

This includes purchase price (subtracting out the amount I sold it for). Insurance. Taxes/fees. Gas. Auto insurance. Repairs and maintenance. Silly things like car washes.

Of course, I didn't buy a brand new car, or even a recent car. And bought a reliable brand so repairs were low. My insurance was not just liability. All apartments I lived in had parking, as did my work. The types of apartments that have expensive parking are the type that have high rents anyway, so I save in both by not living there.

Excluded is the gas for road trips, but I think that's fair as I doubt you used Lyft/Uber for road trips.

So for less than what you're paying a month, I got to have a car, and got to drive anywhere I wanted to - not just work.


That may work fine for where you live, but that doesn't apply in my case. It's over $400/month alone for both parking in my apartment building, and getting a space to park near my work (both downtown Chicago). And 90% of the places I go to outside of work, don't have free easy parking, so I'd be paying a ton for parking since there isn't convenient free parking lots like suburbs have. So parking costs alone makes it unrealistic for me and not as cheap as in your case.

I think most people would gladly pay a bit more to not have to deal with the annoyance of owning a vehicle. Parking in most cities is pain. Driving to restaurants or bars is a no-go with your own vehicle. The flexibility you lose with having to own a car is simply not worth it.


Counterpoint: I think most people would gladly pay a bit more to not have to deal with the annoyance of only being able to use strangers' cars, of variable cleanliness, only after waiting several minutes for them to show up, and not being able to store anything in them during multi-stop trips.


In Germany a few big car companies start with an interesting middle ground, a "car as a service" where you pay monthly, can always switch to a different one or give it back for some time, they also handle repairs, tire changes and everything else that might pop up.

It's quite affordable starting at ~$350/mo, so I am curious to see how people will accept it.


>Parking in most cities is pain. Driving to restaurants or bars is a no-go with your own vehicle.

I'm not sure whether you're referring to driving under the influence or merely about parking. If the latter: In most cities in the US, these are mostly non-issues. So I disagree with your use of "most". Although I've used Lyft in the last few years for various reasons, only once did I use it because I was worried about not finding parking. For other occasions, I used public transit. But seriously - probably less than once a year do I need to find alternate transportation because I'm worried about parking.

(BTW, I forgot to add parking to the above estimate. I spent on average $6.03 a month on it).


I find a car to give more flexability than it takes. Its simple to pickup friends, do errands, with no scheduling or waiting. This doubtlessly depends on your area. Most people here assume everyone is in urban california fauxtopia.


The economics can be interesting. For me to own a car means I have to pay $300/month anyways, just to be able to park it in my apartment building. After considering the cost of ownership (insurance, maintenance, gas, etc), I decided it wasn't worth it.


Using Edmunds' True Cost to Own calculator, A 2014 Honda Civic would cost about 5k per year or $416/Mo. If you don't get free parking at work or home or if you have to pay tolls, that cost could increase significantly. A parking spot at a condo could rent for $200-$400/Mo. Parking downtown could be $12-$20 per day. That daily Uber ride sounds like a deal.


>A 2014 Honda Civic would cost about 5k per year or $416/Mo.

You can see my numbers here for my Civic.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20650989

Mine was 8 years old when I bought it, but with low miles (about 60K). So I paid a bit of a premium - almost as much as the 2014 Civic on that page. I kept it till it was at 144K miles. Effective cost to own was under $300/mo.

Comparing the 2014 numbers with mine:

Insurance is almost the same.

Repairs + Maintenance was less than a third of their estimate. I didn't skimp at all on this, BTW. I'd be worried if a 5 year old Civic has that many repairs!

No financing - paid in cash. Even the 2014 one is a little over $10K. You can just save and pay cash.

Their estimate requires a lot more in fuel costs. Mine is about two thirds of their estimate. This can be highly variable (e.g. if you have a long commute).


One reason they include financing cost in the TCO calculator, even thought it's possible to buy a car in cash is due to the time value of money. Cars do not earn a rate of return, so any money you have in a car instead of investments is sitting idle. You subtracted your sale price from your purchase price, but that only counts the depreciation, not the opportunity cost.

For example, let's say you bought your car for 10k, then sold it 7.1 years later for 9k. You have 1k of depreciation. You also have $6,300 at 7%(a typical target rate) in lost income from not keeping that money in a productive asset for those years.


Yes, but don't assume I can just put the whole purchase price in an investment. The comparison is between buying and using Uber.

In my case it came down to $242/mo vs anywhere from $360 to $480/mo with Uber. It's not clear to me that had I invested the purchase price the 7% return would be enough to make up the difference of $120-240/mo. Certainly not in the first year. I'd have to do the math to see when the breakeven point would be where that initial investment is yielding more than the extra cost of using Uber.

There's also the fact that 7% is the market's return, which is over a 30 year span. On a 10 year span, the rate of return is highly volatile, and could even be negative (on the flip side, could be a lot more than 7%).

I just ran the numbers, BTW. With my purchase price, invested at 7%, I break even after 7 years (just about the time I owned it) - assuming Uber is the upper bound of $480/mo. At the $360/mo cost I'd break even after 3-4 years.

I didn't take into account the sale price, so that would make the breakeven point a little farther.


> That daily Uber ride sounds like a deal.

... for someone living in a bubble completely disconnected from the planet Earth, where they think that a $400/mo parking spot is 'normal'.

Sure, there's a few million people like you out there. Not enough to make Uber break even, though.


But we're talking about Chicago and this is the very center of normal. There are in fact millions of people who work in the central business districts of the world's most expensive cities. Uber has 75 million riders. If they could actually convince some fraction of those millions of high income urbanites to only use Uber for their transit needs that would yield a disproportionate share of their revenue.

It's great that you get free parking, but have you considered that you're living in a bubble too? 6 out of 7 people globally don't even own cars!


I don't have free parking, I pay $150/month for it.

But I'm also a wealthy techie who happens to live within spitting distance of a booming downtown. 90% of the people living in my metro area (Seattle) do not pay $150/month for parking (And I'd wager that 99.9% do not pay $400/month for parking).

... And most of those people have commutes of >4 miles. The problem with taxis is that you pay by the mile. You'd be an idiot to drive yourself to work, if you live 2 miles from work, and have to pay through the nose for parking. You'd be an idiot not to drive yourself to work, if you live 15 miles from work, your bus system sucks, and your parking is cheap or free. [1]

Doing 15 miles/day in a taxi costs nearly 3x that of doing 5 miles/day in a taxi. Doing 15 miles/day in a car is pocket change, compared to doing 5 miles/day in a car (Or 0 miles/day). Most of your costs with a car are fixed. Most of your costs with a taxi are distance-based.

[1] And if we're going to get into a discussion about how the world should value the cost of parking spaces, I will happily point out that what we should have is good bus services, not private chauffeurs.


> Most of your costs with a car are fixed.

A lot, but typically not most - I drive about 12k km per year (16 km commute 2-3 days per week) and over the past six years my fixed costs have been around $7k. My variable costs have averaged $0.26/km for about $16k total. (All CAD)


You can get a lease on something like a Toyota Corolla with no money down and ~$250 per month. That plus gas plus maybe having to pay for a parking space would probably break even, if not save a little money. Not to mention any rides that aren't part of the commute.


Inexpensive leases often come with limits on mileage that make the cars more expensive to lease if you drive over the limit.


The two leases I've had were 12k miles/year (or 36k for the term of the lease). I work from home now but I used used to live 10 miles away from my job, and still turned in my vehicle at the end of my first lease with like 10k miles to spare.


Don't forget insurance, maintenance, tag, and other fees associated with owning a car.


For what it's worth Toyota leases come with 2 years of maintenance included, and unless you have major trouble, that last year might be an oil change or two costing ~$100 at the dealership (less if you go elsewhere). Admittedly, insurance can be pricy depending on where you are. Registration/tag fees can vary quite a bit depending on what state you're in.


Like the occasional overzealous towing that seems to happen


Parking spaces at both at home and work can easily be more than that in a major city. That is more limiting than even the car costs.


I dare say, if you live and work in a major city, close enough to the centre that you don't have a parking space, you ought to have great access to public transport. Unless you're in the US, I suppose.


As someone who used to work in a major city but now doesn't I think the ride share model makes much more sense in urban areas where you have more obtrusive costs like parking.


But then you have to own the car, which for someone like me who would barely use it aside from an occasional weekend ride just makes little sense as far as the additional concerns of paying insurance, servicing, finding parking space and so on.


How much is the total cost of owning a car in Chicago? Including gas, parking, insurance, maintenance and consumables, depreciation/lease, etc?


A lot. I live just outside the city limit. 2015 VW Golf Wagon. Payment is only $260/month because I bought it used, got a decent amount for my trade in, and put extra down. Insurance $100/month. Gas, tolls, taxes, misc parking $200/month. Parking at my apartment is included in lease but can easily be $200-400 depending on where in the city you are. I'm a freelancer. As such I don't pay for monthly parking in the city, which could be another $200-400.


So $860 or so per month to own a car. “Included in your lease” doesn’t mean you don’t pay for it by the way.


And how many trips do you take with your car (so we can calculate the cost for replacing it with an Uber)?


Outside certain places with very high car ownership uber is tons more expensive.


Same experience here, also in Chicago. I take the bus now it’s much cheaper.


Yeah, I take the bus/CTA home everyday, but still love my morning Uber rides. Haha Just so much easier, and I hate being all hot and sweaty from the bus or CTA when I get to work in the morning. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


When they first started out in my city they offered a ride pass that put a hard limit on rides less than 20 miles at $4. Yes, $4 for anywhere within 20 miles.

Then it was changed to $5. Then it was changed to $6, or instead you could UberPool for $2. Then they added a 2 minute waiting period for an UberPool. They then also changed the flat fare altogether and instead your ride pass came with something like 50% off all rides, with a maximum $6 discount.

It's obvious what would happen. At least my friends and I got it while the getting was good.


Wow I had no idea it was that low. No wonder people wants that product. Here a uber ride is the same price as taxi (because it is taxi) so 15 minutes is easily $50.


It used to be easy to get a Lyft/Uber for $30 from SF to SFO (10 miles). A cab would never be less than $50 (both including tip).

I took a Lyft a month ago during peak times and it was $40, so it's still significantly cheaper for me.


I used to commute from San Mateo to San Francisco on Uber Pool for ~$10 each way. Same service is >$20 now.


That’s a distance of 32km. Assuming a fully loaded $0.50 per km cost to operate a private vehicle, the cost should be $16.00 each way assuming that you are the driver.

By charging $4.00 more than the cost, you’re freeing yourself up to do other things during that time. Is your time really not worth $4.00?


Fully loaded cost is assumed to be $0.55 (or something close) by the IRS. That's $0.33 per km or $10.56 for his trip, saving $10 (or $20 return) each day.


LoL it’s $0.50 in Canada, but I forgot to do the currency conversion. Touché.


Time is definitely extremely valuable, which is why I don’t commute anymore.


Same thing happened with Via in NYC. They used to offer $5 flat rides to anywhere in Manhattan, now prices for the most part are variable and sometimes much more. It was unfortunately too good to be true. They offer a subscription pass that can use pre-tax dollars but for me personally it's not the same.


promotional pricing in the beginning is a very common technique to increase market share.

This is particularly important for industries with large network effects like ridesharing.


> among my friends we all stopped using Uber (unless we really have to). It simply became way too expensive.

What's been the alternative? Regular taxis? Aren't they just as expensive?


There’s a reason nobody cares about the taxi industry before ride sharing: it was small because it was too expensive for most people to use outside of special circumstances.


I disagree. Expense was never really an issue for me.

My issue was always summoning the taxi. I was generally operating in secondary markets like Las Vegas off-strip, San Diego, or Pittsburgh. You couldn't schedule your trip to the airport because you never knew when the stupid taxi would show up.

While I hate many things about Uber/Lyft/ridesharing, they changed the customer service expectation of the whole field. Even if the prices go back to taxi levels, that's a massive improvement.


You have to realize how small the group of people is who can regularly afford to hire other people to perform services for them (which is what a taxi is). You're in that group, so the problem for you is convenience of hailing. But most people just can't afford to hire others to perform services for them on a regular basis. And that will never change, since it's inherent to the distribution of incomes in the population.


> You have to realize how small the group of people is who can regularly afford to hire other people to perform services for them (which is what a taxi is).

You will note that I picked a specific use case: going to the airport.

For anyone who flies (and lots of people fly for one off events--so you aren't automatically "well-off" just because you have a plane ticket), transportation to the airport is particularly painful because you have a fixed time deadline.

Most of the options really suck--ridesharing is actually the most cost effective of the bunch.

If you take your own car, you have expensive parking and get the joy of the shuttle from long-term parking (often longer than a ridesharing ride). If you order a shuttle, it will be slow and have multiple people and tends not to be well time controlled. If you call a taxi, it may not show up as you don't have tracking or the ability to penalize them. Limos work well but are ferociously expensive if you can't split the cost.


Options differ based on location - at my local airport Car2Go is notably more cost effective than Uber, about half the price. (You do have to shuttle to/from the parking, but I've taken it dozens of times without issue.) Limos (or limo company sedans, if you're solo) are also surprisingly affordable - they operate on a flat rate to/from the airport, which is only $10 more than a typical taxi ride from my house.


Ideally your city would have a reliable public transit system to its airport.. I always take Bart to SFO, it's a lot more dependable than any car / shuttle service which is subject to traffic.


I think what the poster is saying is that there are places and times when you used to hire a limo or rent a car, because Taxi service is unpredictable. A lot of those cases can be replaced with Lyft / Uber. I know there are business trips where I used to rent a car and now use Lyft / Uber. I think Uber is replacing a lot of car rental for business travelers.


Fair enough. I'll add to that that it seems like taxi utilization for drunk people has probably gone way up as a result of ride sharing services. But the case that all the bulls were putting forward was that Uber was going to transform personal transportation. But now it's merely a taxi company which can encroach on some adjacent industries. And one that doesn't seem like it will end up with a monopoly the way AirBnB did.


> And one that doesn't seem like it will end up with a monopoly the way AirBnB did.

I think you are confusing "monopoly" and "barrier to entry". "Monopoly" would imply some state where every person using your system makes it harder on your competitors. If, however, your system needs to reach a minimum level to be useful, but doesn't have a feedback loop above that--you have a "barrier to entry"-a fixed cost that must be paid on entry to the space, but doesn't automatically get bigger when your competitor adds customers.

AirBnB doesn't really have a monopoly but they do have a barrier to entry--they perpetuate mostly by continuing to turn a blind eye to the violations of law. If someone stood up a site and used VC money to reimburse listers in New York and San Francisco, AirBnB would lose most of their revenue and you'd have an Uber/Lyft duality. The barrier to entry is that they are already in the space and there doesn't seem to be enough money floating in the space once laws start getting actually enforced for VC's to be willing to throw money into the ring.

Uber and Lyft also have a barrier to entry--a network of drivers. I can pop open the Uber application and know that there is probably a driver within 5-10 minutes of me. Nobody other than Uber or Lyft has that coverage so I'm not going to use another service. Could someone else build that network? Yes, they could--that's a fixed cost that must be surmounted, but once on the other side of that cost adding more drivers or riders doesn't really have an effect that makes it harder on your competitors.


I remember trying to use Taxis in LA on a few occasions (never mind the ride back from the airport to WeHo was always a nightmare) and it being a non-starter most of the time.


In my case, since nobody else has replied with public transit: SF has a really great bus system that, if you're traveling along any of the frequent lines with bus lanes, is usually the same speed as an uber once you factor in the wait. It's just $2.50 for 3 hours of free transfers, and 24/7 service.


Not on New Year’s Eve or any other major drinking holiday. Try hailing a cab or finding a spot on the bus when you’re in the mission trying to make it to the marina or pac heights at 1:30am. I’ve seen buses filled with people just skip stops because they’re too full. Ridesharing has helped immensely with that excess demand even with surge pricing. Also, not all buses run 24/7


I live on the other side of the mission, so YMMV. Though I would suggest that surge pricing is one of ridesharing's strengths, and public transit could learn from it.


For public transportation I don’t love surge pricing. It’s such a great resource for the poor and taking that away because it’s St Patty’s day doesn’t sit well with me


Muni already has a fare system for low-income riders.

In my city the alternative is designated drivers. Uber is what you take when you want to get drunk.


Your own car?

If I go somewhere where it's a pain to park occasionally I will use Uber instead.

Similarly, if I go out I could make a choice of being very conscientious about how much I drink (and thus drive) or take an uber and not worry about being too buzzed.


In Vancouver where Uber/Lyft has never been allowed car sharing services Car2go and Evo (local) are very popular. Open an app, reserve a car parked nearby, get directions to it, then drive it to where you want to go. Park it wherever.

There's also (gasp) public transit (and bike share).


Let me ask you the question in another way. What did you do before Uber? Why do you see it as an essential service now?

To answer your question: I bike, use my car or use electrical scooters. I still use Uber but when I really have to (maybe once every two weeks)


The service also turned to total shit.

I took my first Uber in 2011. It was amazing. Expensive, to be sure, but the service was amazing. Black Sedan, extremely professional, shows up wherever you want, drops you off wherever you want, never really had to look at GPS. Just amazing.

It was so good I figured I'd never need car again. But it was expensive, so I used it sparingly. I'd take public transit or walk most of the time, but when I needed to get somewhere that didn't go or I needed to get somewhere fast, Uber was there.

Now it's a joke. A total joke. The service is shit. The base tier has people picking you up in minivans that rattle like they are about to fall apart and the people can barely drive… if they pick you up at all. There's like a 50/50 chance it will take 15 minutes for a pickup because the driver will go in the completely wrong direction and then cancel the ride. The "premium" service tiers come with fancier cars, but most driver still have no idea where they are going.

It was good when it was small. It was good when they only had professional drivers with carrier passenger permits and commercial insurance. It made sense. It was good for everyone. It was good when they actually had "drivers", not random people struggling to make minimum wage.

I also try to avoid it.


...Uber when it first started was a Black Car service... you can still call a black car service and it will be a certified livery driver.

There are also still plenty of black car services around if you are concerned about loss of quality in more affordable offerings (where did you think the tradeoff was going to be for a more affordable solution? Purely scale?)


You can still choose a black sedan, but that doesn't mean anything. It's just a random guy with a more expensive car.

I didn't think there was going to be a tradeoff. There was never supposed to be. The idea that random people would drive others around was never part of Uber's business plan, that's why it was called "Uber" to begin with. It was never part of anyone's business plan—it was illegal.

Lyft came along and just started hiring random people with no passenger carrier permit and no insurance, and then Uber had to compete with that nonsense and that nonsense somehow just became legal because "it's an app" was a valid defense and the CPUC went along with it because it became too big to ignore or outright ban.


I think the difference between the standard uber choice and the black option is a bit more nuanced than:

> It's just a random guy with a more expensive car.

The big one is they are required to be commercially registered and commercially insured. At least here in Chicago it's usually the private chauffeur's with a livery license plate in sedan/limo. I'm guessing they do Uber black on the side.

Anyway, yes they are "just random guys" just like any other Uber driver but they've had to jump through extra hoops which affects who does it. I'm not saying that causes a better selection but there is specific difference between the two, other than just requiring a better car.


Most cities in the US have terrible public transport. Also, people like to Uber back after a night out.


So what do you use instead of Lyft/Uber in SF? BART / Mini doesn't go everywhere.


What’s the alternative? Owning a car? Walking? The terrible transit?


it’s pretty damn cheap still though in SF. I think Uber will be just fine.


Uber emerged into the market as a disruptor in the absolute worst sense of the world - it was challenging an entrenched industry with low efficiency (cab companies make ungodly amounts of money in some markets) but it did so by playing by a different set of rules - skirting both the disingenuous regulations put in to protect cab companies' profit and those in place for the safety of the general public. Even disregarding all of the legion HR issues at that company their business model depended on not playing fair and they're paying for it.

I like to compare them to the car sharing companies (like zipcar/car2go etc...) which managed to de-throne the entrenched rental agencies without going out of their way to break laws.


You are missing the part where Uber let you get a cab through an app rather than hoping a taxi was driving by and waving your hands at them. It really is a far, far better product when you can get a cab wherever you want, instead of just in a few areas.


Did you know that in most places where cab are operating, you could order a cab to pick you up at your house by calling a cab company and talking to the operator? Flagging down a cab as it drives by is a New York City thing.


I recently spent a weekend in a major city without Uber/Lyft. Trying to call a cab company was terrible, relative to the user experience of Uber or Lyft.

After making my request, a few cab companies simply answered "Ok" before hanging up. I called them back to get an ETA, and their dispatchers would give me answers like "30 to 40 minutes" or "I don't know".

I wasn't out in the boonies or anything. I was downtown.


Many major cities have a universal dispatch number you can call and you get the next available cab from any available company.

Chicago did not have this, and when Uber offered UberTaxi it really was the best of both worlds, for a small surcharge on the normal cab fare.


Sure, and it might arrive in 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or never. It's an awful experience.


Eh there have been plenty of times where requesting an Uber took one of those amounts of times too.


I live in downtown Toronto so it's rarely more than 2 minutes. But even when travelling it's a rare day when it hits 10 minutes.


That's not better. An app is a superior interface to a phone call.

Cab companies refusal to acknowledge this means they deserve to die. The economics are there, an app is undeniably cheaper, at some point, than a call center, and fundamentally whatever prices Americans pay to cab companies is clearly enough to sustain them, so it should in theory be enough to sustain an Uber-like company.

And let's not even get into the conversation about servicing more rural areas, where ZERO cab companies exist, but Uber drivers do. That is a net value add to those communities, no denying.


That absolutely did not work. I recall having to calling cab companies at night and the operator would estimate 30-40 minutes for a 20 minute ride. Spoilers: they would never show up


Calling is also archaic. Manually tell them my location and wait to hear a price? I'm on the go, I don't want to deal with that crap.


That system was incredibly awful.I don't believe there is a single person who used that system and was happy with it.


Right. Typical experience would be, call number, if you're lucky, someone picks up. If you're lucky, they can understand enough for you to order a cab. And then, if you're lucky the cab will actually wait for you rather than pick up some other random fare instead


I just I want to say, I was super happy with that system, much happier than with Uber.

I used a small family taxi company. I had to book in advance, or be prepared for a short wait, but they understood my father in law needed some extra time and understood his requirements. Ubers on the other hand are awful with disabled people in my experience.


In 3 cities where I have lived, calling cabs only works stochastically. Nothing to be relied upon. Uber/Lyft were a huge upgrade over that.


Oh you could order the cab. That you could do. Whether you'd get a cab, now that's a different thing.


You've clearly never missed a flight due to said cab not showing up. Never again.


Must be a US thing - in Scandinavia you always call the taxi company, and they'll send you a taxi - with time and price estimate. It's been like that since forever.


In Scandinavia though (at least in the big cities), you'll be picked up in an unnecessarily top-of-the-line Mercedes Sedan and expected to pay $75 for a 20 minute ride. Also be sure to call the night before if you're trying to catch a flight in the morning! Otherwise you might find yourself on hold.

Luckily the excellent public transport makes up for it. But there are still many scenarios where Uber is a welcome addition.


This is true. Cabs can be _very_ expensive here.

A 10 min drive can easily cost you $40 - and lots of people do take the taxi when going out / downtown during weekends. Even more so when they're heading back home.

We do have public transportation, like night busses that drive every 30 / 60 mins, and through the most populated routes.

But still, we do have pirate / illegal taxis. Basically young adults that will drive you wherever for half the price what a taxi would take.

But yeah, it feels that we simply use taxis a lot less over here. It's mostly traveling people, older folks that aren't mobile enough, and similar.. and of course the hordes of people going to and from downtown during weekends.

People are very good at using public transportation.


I had some car trouble this week so I was ubering to work. 20 minute ride was usually about $13.

The drivers were always nice and friendly. Their vehicles were clean. They arrived on time and got me to work when otherwise I would have been biking or walking for hours.

Those guys earn their money. I tipped them well. I wouldn't Uber to work forever because it is costly, but I absolutely loved ubering while my car was in the shop.


This is possible in the US as well, but depending on where you live this might take a long time, be expensive, or both. Plus, you get no sense of where the cab is. And sometimes cab drivers refuse to go to your neighborhood.

Uber solves that.


Does Uber really solve the bad neighborhood problem?


Maybe not fully, but cabs refused to go to good neighborhoods, let alone bad ones.

I live in Queens in a great neighborhood and cabs have "forgot" how to get here more than once. They don't like it because they have a lower chance of a return fare.


From my experience, US taxi companies are terrible with responding to calls. Their time estimates are so inaccurate that they are useless.


Is that really the case in the US?

At least in Germany, my standard way of getting a cab (wherever I want) was calling one of the dispatch centres.

Taxi-hailing apps made this slightly more convenient, and displaying the cab's route to you removed some stress, but it didn't fundamentally alter the service.

And Uber really doesn't add any value except for undercutting prices by subsidising the rides via investors and shovelling risk etc. onto the drivers.


In my area of the US, calling dispatch would get you a ride only when things are not busy whatsoever. Once there is any level of demand, the service will send the call to the fleet but no one is required to fulfill it.


Wow! That makes Taxis largely useless, IMHO.

I think about 99.9% of my taxi use has been call-ahead, often a day before ("I need a cab to the airport at 9am tomorrow").


The app is a good idea. But not a $UBER_MKT_CAP idea.


The regulated taxi medallion system wasn't good for drivers either. It was good for medallion owners.

Before Uber, taxi medallions in New York were selling for around $1 million. These pricey medallions tended to get bought up by large companies that could afford the investment. Your driver likely couldn't afford one, so instead, drivers would rent a cab and medallion for about $100 per 12-hour shift, on top of the dispatcher fees.

This system was supposed to restrict the supply of cabs to ensure drivers earned a decent wage. Instead, all the value is extracted by the medallion holders.


Oh yea, it was a terrible system - even the concept of limiting the number of cabs is sort of silly - but if the medallions get as expensive as they did then I think it's a clear indication that something in the market is broken.

Still, that doesn't mean rainbows come out of Uber's bum - it was absolutely a market ripe for new competition, Uber just added that competition in a terrible manner.


> and those in place for the safety of the general public.

What regulations are these? Is there any case where taking taxis was or is safer for an average customer than Uber?


In many places around the world, commercial or taxi driver's licenses require additional medical and background checks compared to a regular license, plus taxis require additional insurance.

E.g., UK https://www.gov.uk/taxi-driver-licence/outside-london; Germany https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/F%C3%BChrerschein_zur_Fahrgast...


Taxi drivers had background checks,


Uber and Lyft have background checks across the board. They also had a higher insurance policy ($1M standard) than most cab companies ever did...


They also carry appropriate insurance and have stricter punishments over traffic violations including DUIs.


> have stricter punishments over traffic violations

That certainly doesn't stop them from speeding, cutting you off, going straight from right turn lanes and generally driving very aggresively. Cab drivers are really one of the worst when it comes to following traffic rules, second only to urban bicyclists.


Soo... because they aren't being punished after registering with law enforcement, I shouldn't have to register at all?


No, what I’m saying is if law is not being enforced, it’s useless, and so pointing at it as some kind of advantage of taxis over Uber is severely misguided.


Individual taxi companies are in charge of doing background checks on their drivers, same as Uber & Lyft


>I like to compare them to the car sharing companies (like zipcar/car2go etc...) which managed to de-throne the entrenched rental agencies without going out of their way to break laws.

Except for the fact that Avis bought Zipcar. So not sure about the dethroning part.

I know some folks who really depend on short-term rentals to support being carless but it's a relatively niche service--especially with current Uber/Lyft pricing.


Glad they're down, and hope the whole "gig economy" burns down too.

Where gig economy = padding the loss of decent jobs by replacing the bottom end with desperate deals where "non employed" employees, without regular salary, benefits, company provided work tools, etc., make a pittance, while the organizing company gets a cut from millions of transactions.

In some cases, no jobs is better than subsistence/dead-end/exploitative jobs. At least the former makes the problem evident, and ups the pressure to do something about it on a society/policy/economy level -- as opposed to helping perpetuate it.


I think this is what worries me about the "mainstream" debate that might be incorrectly framing the whole problem altogether.

Here, the rise of the gig economy came from automation. Not in the caricature sense that there are robot automatons that serve your plates in a restaurant, but in a sense that scalable automated processes replaced human dispatchers that answers your phone calls at the taxi companies and radios drivers to pick you up, and automated processes that replaced taxi drivers wandering around aimlessly on the street trying to pick people up.

Here we get higher productivity but it's also a powerful hegemonizing, monopolizing, wealth concentrating force where the controllers of these automated processes, which scales globally at low cost, can skim value-add (that used to be done by more people with jobs) from the transportation and other needs everywhere.

But the solution isn't to break them up and for society to become unproductive and un-automated again by forcing minimum wage, health insurance, guaranteed menial jobs etc. Whether we like it or not, taxi radio dispatchers is never coming back as a mainstream job that can be the bedrock of local communities again.

Instead, we need to start having discussions now about the fundamental way how we structure human society in a world where more and more of this planet's 'productivity' is concentrating more and more in the hands of those who produce the AI automations. This is nothing short of answering the question of why we're alive. Right now, our sense of purpose comes from trading our muscular and mental power during life on this planet for GDP. If that's the metric, our muscular and mental powers' productivity vs AI will lose (maybe in 5 years, maybe in 10 years), and by implication, we lose our purpose for living. We need to stop pretending there is an artificial scarcity of productivity and change the purpose of life.

This is a Sanders vs Yang timeline of solving the problems we need to solve in the next 5 years vs solving the problems we need to solve in the next 20 years.


Wealth is accruing to people with power and capital. The people who produce automations are laborers like the rest of society, just with a temporarily elevated standard of living. As writing software is deskilled and supplanted, it'll be increasingly apparent that we were just a midterm necessary evil to the people signing our paychecks.

To me, the central problem is wealth disparity as a proxy for power disparity: our democratic government is more than capable of addressing our ongoing needs and desires if not for the overwhelming, unjust, and unearned influence of the wealthy.

This is why I think Sanders has the correct prescription and Yang is naive: the solution isn't a policy or set of policies to fix specific problems, no matter how farsighted, it's restructuring our political system to be solely answerable to people who it feigns to represent.


> The people who produce automations are laborers like the rest of society, just with a temporarily elevated standard of living.

And the illusion that tech workers are not laborers is giving out under the weight of the high cost (hence lowered standard) of living in tech centers, and the growing realization that we're not temporarily embarrassed billionaires.


Right (and slightly orthogonal, back to the mode of production topic), I think we can treat it in 2 ways:

1- We recognize this Bonds villain plan, we stop it and go back to our happy pastural life and everyone lives happily ever after; or

2- We grant ourselves this new productivity as a reward that frees us from labor (but in the process have to answer the hard question of how to deal with going from solving the conflict between the 1% and the 99% to solving the conflict between the 0.0001% and the 99.9999%)


The thing is this beautiful new freedom from labour is also freeing us from subsistence. I see it all over London where I am - there’s now a permanent underclass with no chance of getting up in the social ladder because they are doing jobs such as cleaning, maintenance, baristas... stuff that requires no specialised skills but most importantly will never allow you to pay for your children’s way into higher education. Thus I fear we are permanently removing 30-40% and increasing numbers from the social ladder.

If we keep automating everything and capital gets to own the cloud processing power that allows for it, and we “rent everything” as some people are predicting, what the hell earning power will anyone have unless they work in AI or programming new things to automate?


First, I don't think the rich are cartoonishly evil, Machiavellian, or even particularly interesting. It doesn't take superhuman skill or sociopathy to live off other people's labor. They're just trapped in a game they can't help but win and are by definition incapable of walking away from.

Second, the idea that there is a 'we' encompassing the 1% and 99% or some future and even more fractional segmentation is unrealistic. There's already been millennia of slavery and serfdom: let's not repeat them by trusting that our seat at the table is somehow ordained and not the result of centuries of people fighting from chattel to power on our behalf.

If we can't achieve even the most basic, obvious reforms (a universal healthcare system, a livable wage, an end to global warming in our lifetimes) given the current power structure, then contributing to the further entrenchment of the wealthy isn't just counterproductive, it's suicidal.


How is Sander's solution different from Yang's? Asking, since I don't know?


Sanders is more focused on New-Deal style policies: expand Medicare to cover everyone, make public colleges tuition-free, and that sort of thing. His approach is more-or-less to shore up or expand the institutions we have and make sure everyone can get the education they need to compete.

Yang's approach is UBI: basically, give everyone monthly income with no strings attached and no means testing.

In both cases, the cost of the policies is offset by various forms of taxes.

Bernie's approach rests on the assumption that there are and will be enough jobs for everyone (if they have adequate access to the education, health care, and child care services they need), whereas Yang's is based on the assumption that there won't be.

In the long run, I figure that Yang is right (though we could also deal with the problem by transitioning to 30 or 20 hour work weeks), though Sanders' policy proposals better address the major problems we're dealing with right now.


Fundamentally, Yang suggests a technocratic approach: pass a certain policy (UBI) that would likely fix lots of things if passed, and then observe it work and adjust as necessary.

Sanders doesn't AFAIK support a UBI, but on top of a slew of left-wing policies, his perspective is that you need a mass movement of people to build institutions that can challenge corporate power.


I'm not saying he's right, but I think Yang's policy towards that is to give everyone $100 for them to donate to the politician/party they wish to "drown out corporate lobbying".

I'm not saying that'll work (or that it won't) but for the sake of it, that's his policy.

He also wishes to implement preferential voting.


I wonder if you could set it up such that all donations go into a pot/fund, and then have each person vote for the party they wish to receive the funds proportional to that vote.


Right. Using perhaps right-wing friendly terminologies, Yang is closer to the equality of opportunity end of the spectrum and Sanders is closer to the equality of outcome end.


Probably not a popular opinion on a board for entrepreneurially-inclined programmers, but this is the truth.


Adam Smith addressed this in "The Wealth of Nations." The coal furnace door opening children all got fired when one of them discovered they could tie the door handle to the piston and open the door automatically for the coal shovelers.

This isn't an AI problem. This is an owner vs. employee problem. Advances in technology accrue to the owners at the expense of the employee. This always happens because employees sign over rights to their innovations to the employer in exchange for a short term need for money.

Most people never take the time or spend the money to invest in themselves.


Whatever your opinion of college is, last I checked people are still treating it as an investment in themselves.


Yep, this is a fascinating (and scary) thing to think about.

What will happen to a society where every single person has their basic needs met by some form of automation, and nobody needs to work?

I would say most first world countries are already in this scenario if so much money wasn't spent on non essentials. Industrial scale farming, mass produced pharmaceuticals, rapid house construction etc. mean that if a society wanted, you could have 10% of the population providing for the 90% (an inversion of what was the case for most of human history).

There is no precedent or example from history to show us what this will do to society. How will humans cope with not actually needing to do anything? I personally envisage a Matrix like scenario where this societal change will also usher in advances in VR and related tech. People may spend most of their time engrossed in entertainment, until eventually, they see no need to participate in the real world at all.


>What will happen to a society where every single person has their basic needs met by some form of automation, and nobody needs to work?

Those who control the "means of automation" (robot factories, power stations, etc) --let's say 0.01%--, will rule over the rest, in gated communities and closed enclaves.

A small percentage of the population will live alongside them, in B-rated residences, to provide them services that, either still need humans or are better done by humans (e.g. sex), or its considered "classier" to have humans do for you (e.g. cooking). Let's say that's a 10%.

The rest 90% will be left to rot in urban and suburban slums, develop their own black economy, and shot on sight when they dare enter the rich areas.

https://www.amazon.com/Planet-Slums-Mike-Davis/dp/1784786616

https://www.amazon.com/City-Quartz-Excavating-Future-Angeles...


The irony of your amazon links at the bottom of the rant is delicious. Given the pessimism of your comment (not saying its wrong), Im surprised you didn't factor in how much the rich will invest in sex robots. Imagine if Bezos invested the same amount he's going to lose in the divorce settlement into human-like robotics. Brothels are illegal in much of the western world, but the first person to put $1bn into the sexbot industry will clean up, no laws against fucking a toaster!


The other bleaker outcome is that anybody who doesn't support the needs of the 0.01% will just be wiped out since they no longer serve a purpose. Think about it: sweatshops will be replaced by robots, menial healthcare tasks performed by robots, garbage collectors, janitors etc. None of them needed. So why give them food provided by the robotic farms? The only thing stopping a mass population wipe out by the technocracy is altruism.


Will be left? Come on down to New Orleans and take a tour of Peter Thiel’s cameras!


Right, and the next logical follow-up question is did we just define 'providing' wrong.

Right now, that definition is commercial GDP value, but even that metric's inventor warned us that it's a bullshit metric [1].

Old people living by themselves sometimes spam call doctors, not for their heart bypass commercial value, but to feel materially better after talking to another human, which has no commercial value.

When I was trying to figure out what to do after high school, I was full of energy and curiosity for this world and wanted to do everything from being a historian, to a musician, to astrophysics, which, let's face it, has no commercial value. Now I'm coding. Luckily I like coding, but not everyone's lucky to have their interests align with commercial value.

Maybe it's not so bad for humans to be humans again.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_domestic_product#History


seems like a false proposition, considering today a smartphone is a basic human need if you want to be able to apply to jobs. even the homeless need to have one. have-not is relative to the haves that you compete with in various markets.


the last man


> But the solution isn't to break them up and for society to become unproductive and un-automated again by forcing minimum wage, health insurance, guaranteed menial jobs etc.

I don't know if you know anything about 1990s-early 2000s artificial intelligence research, but the vision of the future back then was artificial agents communicating through standardized protocols to negotiate for goods and services.[1] So, a decentralized dispatching system. What you are saying is false dichotomy monopolist propaganda. There is no technical reason why the only choice is between Uber and manual dispatching.

[1] I spent a few summers as a research assistant working on multi-agent systems. Feel free to object with "but, it's not technically feasible because X, Y, Z." I can probably refute most technical reasons and provide a good explanation.


> more and more of this planet's 'productivity' is concentrating more and more in the hands of those who produce the AI automations.

Sometimes I think folks who think like this really need to get outside more. Yes, a lot of things are being automated, but (a) consider the janky quality of automation, because it's really not mature yet even in purely-software environments where everything can be controlled, and (b) consider the raw cost of doing it vs. the productivity savings and side effects. It's just not worth it for a lot of things and won't be until we have general-purpose AI and general-purpose robotic workers that can take on human-scale jobs. Even then, it might still be cheaper to get actual people in a lot of cases.

But even if so: as someone who implements something you might call automation, like most here, I have to ask: why is it exactly that I should owe a massive amount of my economic output to those who aren't outputting anything? At what point do I simply say "fuck it" and stop working too, because some ridiculous percentage of my income has to be applied towards feeding those who won't/can't/don't do anything productive?


> Sometimes I think folks who think like this really need to get outside more. Yes, a lot of things are being automated, but (a) consider the janky quality of automation, because it's really not mature yet even in purely-software environments where everything can be controlled, and (b) consider the raw cost of doing it vs. the productivity savings and side effects. It's just not worth it for a lot of things and won't be until we have general-purpose AI and general-purpose robotic workers that can take on human-scale jobs. Even then, it might still be cheaper to get actual people in a lot of cases.

I think that's the general mental mismatch that people have when thinking there's a 1:1 match between the present human job and the future 'robot job'.

Cashiers is the most common job in America and the biggest job loss to automation in the coming years. But it's not some Boston Dynamics humanoid fumbling your quarters around. Nor does it have anything to do with general-intelligence AI. It's simply the task specific orange forklift bots in Amazon warehouses that's wiping out American retail because with that bot, stuff on Amazon is a bit cheaper than in malls.

> But even if so: as someone who implements something you might call automation, like most here, I have to ask: why is it exactly that I should owe a massive amount of my economic output to those who aren't outputting anything? At what point do I simply say "fuck it" and stop working too, because some ridiculous percentage of my income has to be applied towards feeding those who won't/can't/don't do anything productive?

I think that's the core question. Why are you giving away your hard earned money to feeding your child? There is no GDP output from the child.


> Why are you giving away your hard earned money to feeding your child? There is no GDP output from the child.

There will be, eventually; and I get to glorify my selfish genes.


>Sometimes I think folks who think like this really need to get outside more. Yes, a lot of things are being automated, but (a) consider the janky quality of automation, because it's really not mature yet even in purely-software environments where everything can be controlled, and (b) consider the raw cost of doing it vs. the productivity savings and side effects.

That just pushes the problem some decades into the future.

Besides, it doesn't have to be perfect. It's enough that it renders a good chunk (say 20-60%) of the population useless job wise to have adverse effects.

In fact, if it wasn't for tons of paper-pushing and busywork serving as a sort of job program and UBI scheme, we'd be in deep shit already, just from the job migration to China and co, never mind AI.

>But even if so: as someone who implements something you might call automation, like most here, I have to ask: why is it exactly that I should owe a massive amount of my economic output to those who aren't outputting anything? At what point do I simply say "fuck it" and stop working too, because some ridiculous percentage of my income has to be applied towards feeding those who won't/can't/don't do anything productive?

For one, because they can get guns and come and blow your brains out and steal your food. So now you need to pay for cops, and government, or your private militia and so on.

Second, because your quality of life, even if ultra rich will drop quickly in a failed country, when people are unemployed and not "outputting anything". In fact the whole country might go down the drain...


This comment is excellent and needs to be emphasized more.

> Besides, it doesn't have to be perfect. It's enough that it renders a good chunk (say 20-60%) of the population useless job wise to have adverse effects.

Ya - within the US at least (current unemployment around 3%?), it does not even have to be at 20 - 60%. My feeling is that even 10 - 15% unemployment or below living wages would lead to revolts, especially if the unemployment is somewhat geographically concentrated.


Okay, Mr. Galt.

You owe a massive amount of your economic output to others because you stand on the shoulders of people who are standing on the shoulders of people who are standing on the shoulders of people... and it's not a simple pyramid, but one giant ball of interdependence that will be thrown into chaos if a critical mass of people try to buck off their riders.

You can't pay the guy specifically holding you up, and not anyone else, because no one can truly identify their keystone supporters. So you pay a bunch of free riders, too, because that's the only way to ensure your supporters stay happy enough to carry you. And they may think that you aren't outputting anything of value to them, and they only carry you because they can't tell who's throwing all the bread down from above.

I pay freeloaders, because I don't want to fall off the ball, onto my fat ass, and fend for myself, using only what I had on hand when I dropped.

If someone engineered a more efficient society, where everyone has a useful and necessary role, for which they each have an individual advantage, and waste is unsupportable--such as for bootstrapping an off-Earth colony--I might join that, but then still accept that I will implicitly be supporting future generations of freeloaders by accumulating capital that will outlast me.

You don't want an accounting on what you are truly worth to society at large. Trust me.


> I pay freeloaders, because I don't want to fall off the ball, onto my fat ass, and fend for myself, using only what I had on hand when I dropped.

Ok, fine, but if taxes get high enough, along with the benefits, you can expect some people to stop caring and start becoming freeloaders themselves.

Don't be surprised when people just say "screw it, this isn't worth it anymore, I am going to become a freeloader myself".


In my experience there are a lot of people working who would make industry more efficient if they could just freeload instead of faking it.


>Ok, fine, but if taxes get high enough, along with the benefits, you can expect some people to stop caring and start becoming freeloaders themselves.

Some people yes. Good riddance from productivity to them.

The people with actual internal motivation would do inventions, great work, art, programming, etc, even if they're not getting mega-rich from it.

It might slow the speed of mega-corps and new gadgets every month, but perhaps that's just what the doctor ordered. More quality, less greedy obsolescence, longer term products, more personal vision (as opposed quick-buck-schemes).


People are already starting to do this, in a time of immense economic prosperity. Look around at the "able-homeless" in the SF bay area.


That's self-limiting, because if that happens, it drives inflation, which drives the real benefit levels down at the same nominal benefit level, which makes fewer people feel like they can afford to opt out. As long as benefits are tied to revenues rather than inflation-indexed, negative feedback market forces limit opt-outs.


> At what point do I simply say "fuck it" and stop working too, because some ridiculous percentage of my income has to be applied towards feeding those who won't/can't/don't do anything productive?

Econ 101 opinion here, so I'm ignoring totally reasonable things like "people work for reasons other than monetary compensation" and assuming you're a rational participant in the economy, but I'd say there is no percentage at which you'd do that.

No matter how high a percentage is taken, you can always increase the topline number to make the bottom line number come out ahead of not working. I'd take a 99% tax on $1 billion/year over $14k/year in social insurance taxed at 0% if it were offered.

Anyway, isn't this similar to what the comp of people implementing something you might call automation is already doing in US tech hubs? We've had relatively low inflation in the US over the past decade (by CPI, anyway) but I can find you an article by Joel Spolsky from the aughts lamenting the fact that some tech companies were paying top new grads nearly $100k a year.


This is incorrect as the time-value of money is different for different people. If the choice is between a high pressure job with ~$100k after tax earnings or a mid pressure job with ~$70k after tax earnings, where the high pressure one is at a 90% bracket vs. the 50% bracket of the lower one, rational people may decide on the lower impact job.


> but I'd say there is no percentage at which you'd do that.

Huh? If I were getting, I don't know, 200k a year, for free, I'd probably quit.

Of course there is a level where that vast majority of people would simply not work anymore.

Rich people do this literally all the time. It's called "retirement".


There is a big factor that you are missing when it come to huge taxes. And that is the fact that people, especially the wealthy, are mobile.

Tax the wealthiest 0.01% at 99% and watch how fast they leave the country for low tax regions.

It already happens with people like the Facebook cofounder that renounced US citizenship.


I hear this a lot. I will believe it when I see it. Silicon Valley is crazy expensive. Why do people go there? Why don't the wealthy of Silicon Valley live someplace cheaper?

Because that is where the action and the talent is. It's not just about money and cost of living.

Also the 0.01 are so absurdly wealthy many are pledging to give away their money. They are not going to move away from their homeland because they are taxed more.



> why is it exactly that I should owe a massive amount of my economic output to those who aren't outputting anything? At what point do I simply say "fuck it" and stop working too, because some ridiculous percentage of my income has to be applied towards feeding those who won't/can't/don't do anything productive?

There's no easy way of attributing value to invention. Does the inventor / automator really deserve all of the profit that would come from such automation for all of eternity?

What if another person was only 2 months behind in making the same invention? And 2 months after that, a 3rd person was destined to, and within 2 years, the idea would be so obvious that the top 5 percentile of that profession would have been able to come up with the same thing? Why should the first person / company to automate something deserve an eternal monopoly on the output of said automation?


And exactly how is the output of an automated system "your output"? The output of setting up an automated system is, the automated system. The output of that system is, surely an interesting question at least.


this kind of thinking so vastly underestimates the creative capacity of humans and the amazing nimbleness of the invisible hand, not to mention the sheer vastness of existence itself. humans will work on other, bigger, more varied, and more complex problems. we have not solved the universe yet, let alone understand even the basic workings of biochemical machinery. there is a crap ton of things we can apply our mental capacity to. we've had this kind of worry since at least the industrial revolution, and somehow we're all still working, despite unprecedented productivity and an order of magnitude more people.

UBI is a patronizing and elitist social welfare pipe dream to address a problem that doesn't exist. as silly as 'social media influencers' may be, they're an apt example of how the world changes in unexpected ways to accomodate the ambitions of some of the billions of people on this earth with active brains and pumping hearts.


Ya, rereading what I wrote, I might have missed a part of what I was trying to address.

I don't think anyone is proposing that humans then do nothing and watch VR porn while being tube fed for the rest of their lives. There is indeed an infinite amount of things left to do.

The question is given this 'initial condition' where everyone is where they are currently in 2019, who does that work.

Is it the 56 year old truck driver who's now 100k in the hole for the truck he bought that's now useless with automated trucks and who's using his disability benefits to feed his opiate problems from the painkillers he needed for his back from all the hours in the truck? If he's not the guy we're putting in CERN trying to demonstrate the next Higgs field interaction, what do we do with him?


first, while long-haul interstate driving is probably the easiest type of driving to automate, it's pretty audacious to assume that automated trucks will take over the industry any time soon. there are still many social, political and legal issues to wade through, never mind the economic and technical.

but to follow your line of reasoning, what you do is walk up to him and say, "hey, in the next 10 years, your job is going to be automated. every year, your chances of losing your job goes up. what do you want to do? [...listens...] ok, let's set up a transition plan and make sure you're ready when the time comes." and who knows, maybe he's a hobby machinist, and can work for CERN custom-building the crazy one-off contraptions they need.

it's paternalistic and patronizing to make assumptions about the abilities and motivations of millions of people and 'solve' their problem for them. it's how we get misguided social programs that waste billions of dollars (i'm not against social programs, just misguided ones, and they're really, really tricky to structure properly).


Ah, I see where you're coming from. I mean retraining just seems to make sense and we all want it to work, but pragmatically, they just don't https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/01/the-fa....

Our mental plasticity just has age related limits.

I'd also debate the conclusion you're making on which approach is more patronizing. I'd assume giving you (and everyone) the means to make your own choices with money is less patronizing than appointing your specific job as a lost cause and appointing new jobs for you to go train yourself for.


the point wasn't that retraining is "the answer" (or appointing of jobs) but that owners/managers/leaders should talk to the people involved to find solutions. it's otherwise patronizing and arrogant to bestow solutions from on high.

also, on people's intrinsic motivations: people don't want money in and of itself. people want esteem (e.g., status) and influence (e.g., power). jobs and careers provide those things; handouts do not.


i agree with you in spirit. but as it stands, whether due to genetics, upbringing, education, social class and/or opportunity, the vast majority of humans are not capable of creatively working on those complex problems and never will be no matter how much retraining they are provided. UBI is a solution for this increasing large proportion of humanity. (which i, as a developer, will join soon enough.)


> change the purpose of life

We are not sophisticated enough to get roads fixed and keep the water supply clean. Long way to go. Don't fall for people who tell you it can happen faster, until they have fixed the roads and cleaned the water in one town.


If the economic incentive was there, we would have fixed roads and clean water supply, it's a solved problem, it's just not scaled across all of society because it costs $$$.

The argument being made is that the drivers of loss of jobs are progress, and the jobs being created as a result of this are not going equitably towards the people displaced.

The purpose of life argument isn't saying that you will have clean water and fixed roads when AI automates you out of the job, it's the opposite - you won't have a fixed road or clean water because you don't matter. The money ain't near you or your run-down, economically irrelevant, town.


If it's a solved problem show me the fixed roads and clean water and I will buy what you are selling. Do it in one town.

There is no need to debate and discuss anything more if you have proof for the simplest case.


You want me to show you a road that has been fixed and a water supply that is clean? I mean, look at any major city with significant wealth?

I don't understand your argument at all. It's unrelated to people being automated out of a job and the structure of our society changing. We aren't going towards a utopia where everything is perfect, we are talking about a stumbling forward into the unknown, all our crummy parts bolted onto us.


I was responding to your framing things as a choice between a 5 year time frame Vs a 20 time frame. How can anyone asses without proof a 5 year time frame is possible? So I said don't fall for people who claim they can do things fast without asking for proof. Otherwise anyone can claim anything is possible by tomorrow.


I’m not convinced this is even on the list of things that need to considered in the next 5 years. If we triage “the problems” this is take 2 aspirin and call me in the morning.

Climate, healthcare, immigration, requires focus to fix correctly


The solution is to replace the monopoly companies with public decentralized protocols that will enable a large shared network of customers to be serviced by a competing field of companies that plug into it.


That's still a classic Sanders vs Yang mentality to the problem. I'm not saying that the public forcing more competition isn't good, but it's orthogonal.

If we broke Uber into 1000 Uberlets, it still doesn't change that their only path out is still to be first in replacing all drivers with AI. As pro union, pro minimum wage, pro health benefit, pro 3 day weekend as I am, taxi driver jobs are still not coming back. There just aren't going to be sustainable mining towns or fishing towns or trucker stop towns.

This doesn't answer the humanity in 2050 question. And we need to start answering that question now.


There are a few decades between then and now. In 2050 your job will be automated also.


This is the longest-winded name for a "free market" that I've ever heard


"In some cases, no jobs is better than subsistence/dead-end/exploitative jobs"

Sure, but neither you or I get to decide that qualification. Only the person doing the job does. We don't really know what fits their lives or what options they have.

I don't like gig stuff/sharing economy (or the big 'unicorns' associated with it) either...but it is "another option" for many people that wouldn't have one, esp. lower skilled immigrants, minorities, retired and young people.


I feel like this misses something crucial to how most of these arrangements work: the worker is unable to put value on the gig. That is the real asymmetry. The gig worker's car wears down, requires gas, oil changes, and gets beat up by the road, but from his perspective he sees $25. Do you think Uber would even try to estimate that number?! (which they almost certainly could). Its essentially capitalization on a huge information asymmetry.


What happened to personal responsibility? Is that out the window as well? Or do we need intervention, similar to how parents point their kids in the proper direction to go?


The point in having a society at all is the recognition that by agreeing on a set of rules, organizing ourselves to cooperate, people are better off.

The "what about personal responsibility" can be applied to most things society offers you. Law enforcement? Buy your own gun and defend yourself. Firefighters? Buy your own water hose. Exploitive employers? Grow your own backbone.


>Law enforcement? Buy your own gun and defend yourself. Firefighters? Buy your own water hose. Exploitive employers? Grow your own backbone.

Those first two aren't similar because I don't volunteer to have crime committed against me or for my house to burn down. People voluntarily drive for Uber.


People drive for Uber because Uber forces traditional taxi companies out of business by (a) breaking the law and (b) losing 5.2B.


What laws is Uber breaking, or has it broke? Can you provide a citation? As far as I've been able to determine through research, the claim that Uber was breaking the law is largely a myth.

Most cities have historically not regulated transportation providers where the customer contracts with the provider ahead of time, or they are regulated in a different class and much more leniently than taxis. "Black car" aka livery and limousine services have existed long before Uber, and were not breaking the law in cities where they operated.

Most cities consider taxis to be vehicles that can be hailed by riders at the curb, where the trip is not pre-arranged and the customer has no prior business relationship with the transportation provider. Although Uber now has the ability to book actual taxis in some cities, this is not the category in which Uber historically operated.

Uber was able to grow quickly in part because it tapped into the large established base of private car services. These services existed in cities all over the world, but there was no unified interface to book cars with them. That's the niche that Uber filled. If you talk to many drivers today, they work for these companies (or own their own small company) and use Uber to fill their downtime.

For more information on this, see: "How does Uber overcome taxi medallion regulations?" on Quora: https://www.quora.com/How-does-Uber-overcome-taxi-medallion-...

> Before Uber and ride sharing, not all cars with personal driver for hires were taxis. You also had livery cars (such as limousine or black cabs) and various other systems. In cities that enforce a medallion system, taxis have more rights than livery cars; specifically, they are authorized to respond to street hails, ie to pick a passenger that waves at them from the street. Livery cars only can take a pre-arranged trip. As the number of medallions is limited, the right to take street hails is exclusive to taxis.

> Uber can be used to book taxis in certain markets but the vast majority of Uber trips are not taxi rides. Originally, the Uber service was what is Uber Black today, bringing business to livery cars. The cars were already licensed, insured and authorized to operate. They weren’t allowed to pick up a person on the street (still aren’t) but if a trip was booked to the app, it’s considered pre-arranged. So this didn’t change much from a legal perspective.


Automation? Make your own AI, aka "learn to code". At least in this one case, there's strong cultural pushback


Personal responsibility works both ways. Just because Uber is an organization doesn't mean they shouldn't be beholden to an ethical, and equal, working arrangement that is fair to both parties. The difference here is, as others have noted, Uber has entire departments devoted to maximizing their profits with little to no care for the driver. It's clear Uber always only wanted human drivers as a way to bootstrap development into a completely driverless service. What Uber is failing on is spreading themselves too thin. They're focused on both global expansion to compete with rivals AND sinking exorbitant capital into R&D for things that don't seem to be playing out as fast as they'd like. I said it in a thread before Uber went IPO but nobody should have expected the street to be good to Uber. I realize this was as a way for them to get to the next level, but I believe history will reflect poorly on Uber as lesson learned in what was a great idea that turned into a greedy model that eventually backfired. I only hope ride-sharing lives on in a way that is better positioned to fund the driver. I think it's clear there's a model that supports the back end services with the bulk of the revenue going to the driver that is sustainable.


The reality is that the passengers don’t care about the driver, and the drivers are businesses looking for the highest paying passengers there are, with a choice of Lyft or Uber or any other matching service. This is like how northern America was back when it was full of farmers. People were self-employed, their own masters, and nobody buying their crops owed them charity.


I'm a big personal responsibility advocate myself, but I'm also someone who was stumped today trying to pick the best deal on kitchen paper in the supermarket.

A market only works efficient when there is information parity, but a small-time Uber driver can't put a data science team on the job to make sure Uber isn't abusing their information advantage, so in this case i'd only find it fair to require them to do those calculations in a transparent manner.


Haven't other people already done the analysis as to why driving for Uber is a bad financial decision? The average driver isn't equipped to do the financial analysis, but surely he could do a bit of reading online about a future career.


Honest question: Have you done the numbers on your career? Researched it to some degree that gives you serenity?

Like really doing it in Excel, instead of just looking at ballpark estimates and thinking "yeah that's gonna be enough"?

Many people don't think of themselves and their position in life in this fashion and rather have a moralistic view of the world: "If I work a lot, I'll feed my family!" and just assume that is what is going to happen, based on the values they were taught growing up / in school / on tv.


Not the person you replied to, but I have. And given the venue, I'm guessing many others here have too. Also, Excel is unnecessary and perhaps even harmful; all you're doing is providing false precision because the uncertainty is too big unless you're a public servant or something. Ballpark estimates are all you're going to get for any multi-decade forecast involving literally anything. But none of this is too relevant to your actual point, so I'll move on.

> Many people don't think of themselves and their position in life in this fashion and rather have a moralistic view of the world: "If I work a lot, I'll feed my family!" and just assume that is what is going to happen, based on the values they were taught growing up / in school / on tv.

This is true and unfortunate, but the solution isn't to subsidize this mindset, the solution is to change the values people are taught growing up / in school / on tv. Not because I think it's necessarily bad to hold a moralistic view of the world, but because economics doesn't give a shit and will steamroll any clumsy attempt to provide shelter for the naive.


I'm not expecting people to do their own data analysis. That's my whole point. I do expect that an adult would do something like Google their new prospective career, talk to people about it, or read about it.

That Uber is a bad company to drive for isn't exactly a state secret. A bit of research (e.g. a Google search) will point out some problems.

https://www.google.com/search?q=how+much+money+will+i+make+d...


Great question. I mean that. But maybe put differently:

> What is happening to personal responsibility?

It sure as heck is changing a lot when powerful players derive algorithmic insight that allows them to know/predict us better than we can ourselves and our communities, plus three things:

1. we can't keep up as individuals, 2. our governments (the last invention that helped us keep up,) can't keep up, and 3. we haven't evolved current institutions (including companies) to keep up on our behalf.

My money is on co-operatives -- democratic companies: [tech] worker co-ops and #platformcoop

We need things to push back, this time not on authority/power/money (old labour organizing days) so much as push back on capacity to know us and render us easily legible and influenced

Here's a place if you care to explore how tech folks are starting to play with this old-as-the-hills stuff that maybe hasn't been urgent enough up until now: https://community.coops.tech


Interesting, I feel it's actually getting even easier to make responsible decisions, without the advice I got from the internet I'd probably be picking individual stocks and my mortgage structure would look a lot worse.

Carrying a calculator in your pocket even helps make those little decisions at the store easier.


Ah I can see that. But it feels like a red herring to me...?

As in, those gains aren't accruing equally. Even among people, tech savvy monetizable upper-middle class people get tech sic'd on their dilemmas first. But between orgs and people, I worry it's an even bigger chasm. It's Piketty's "Capital in the 21st Century" in recursion, where accrual of knowledge capital (specifically about individuals, and their probability space of actions accessible through newfound data streams), not financial capital.

Anyhow, thanks for engaging :)


I think the challenge is that the tech is moving so fast that there is no line where the judicial system has said: "Hey Uber, that's over the line."

Credit Card and loan rates are two examples where some people would be so desperate that they would sign _anything_ to get an advance of cash or credit. But we have protection for them and rates cannot exceed a certain amount, depending on the type of loan.


The judicial system in many places has said that Uber have crossed the line. It's been a big part of their business model.


A giant corporation with entire departments dedicated to calculating pay, customer demand, fuel costs, maintenance, and depreciation, and figuring out the optimal way to screw people out of as much as possible, versus desperate people who happen to own a car: who wins?

I’m sure that a lot of people make good money driving for these companies, but I’d bet there are a lot of people who don’t understand what it really costs to drive a car and end up essentially acting as a conduit for money from their car’s value to Uber’s bank account. Uber knows this and does nothing. In any other context, we’d call it a scam. When a scammer is operating, do we have any obligation to stop them, or is “personal responsibility” it?


Personal responsibility is still a thing in our society. And the fact that it's a society means we need to look out and care for each other.

It would be nice if we could cultivate a similar expectation of corporate responsibility towards workers and customers.

Uber's tactic of attracting drivers with decent pay rates that they knew were unsustainable then slowly chipping away at that over time is sleazy.


Next time you get screwed, in any capacity, you should live by your words and just assume your "personal responsibility".

You bought a car that was missing a very obscure but very critical peace in its brake assembly, and now it's embedded in another car in the middle of the intersection: Whatever happened to your personal responsibility in making sure that the car was complete?


Material wealth is not enough in itself - capital must have gained it through just means and emerge the victor of a fair competition. That’s the liberal conservative’s personal responsibility. I’m not sure about the Uber case, but try applying your argument to the case of tabacco - it still works.


YES! Uber should be personally responsible for reimbursing all costs. I'm glad you get it.


OP doesn’t mean

“For some people it’s better to have no job than a bad job”

(Maybe that’s true but as you say it’s their choice to make)

He is saying:

“For society, it’s actually harmful that we paper over the cracks of giving people on the margins of society confidence in how they can economically contribute and get meaning with unsustainable “jobs” rather than society actually being forced to confront this problem”.


I disagree. You assume that all actors have everything that is required for them to make an assessment on their own, which mostly boils down to information and data, but also includes skill, available time, and even to a certain degree little things like the energy they have available to them to make such life decisions (which the poster you replied to included, I think).

That is what we have regulations for.

Do you know and understand what is in your shampoo bottle? What a car needs to come equipped with, not just in obvious safety features but also in its deeper and detailed implementation, to be safe for normal use ("normal use" itself being something you get taught in driving school)? How to build your own house, or even just how to recognize that a building you enter will not fall down onto your head?

I, for myself, am very glad that regulations allow me to just assume certain ground truths in avoiding negative impact, without having to be an expert in every little thing that touches my life.


A large number of Uber drivers in many countries including the US are not particularly young or old and are white and have skills or professional careers.

The reason they drive for Uber is not a lack of skill. It's because they ran out of money and needed a job. Often having skills doesn't translate into having a good job. Good jobs are a limited resource per area and field.


I'm sorry but I disagree. Alluding to "maybe not knowing" whether someone wants to do something which has, plenty of times been demonstrated in economical and psychological terms to be detrimental is not a strong argument. It's just tossing a very sheer cover of "we don't know that" and ending there.


It's time to stop assuming startups are the solution to poor public policy. This is a thread topic in itself, but I cannot let the assertion stand ("any job is better than no job, what are you going to do about it?").


You're on a site where a large number of people are either running their own startups, employed by other startups or thinking about building their own startup. Shouldn't be surprised that many people here believe that startups are a panacea


One mustn't be from the village to state the emperor has no clothes. Lots of smart people here, people who could be putting their effort into something with more leverage and impact.

In the words of Toni Morrison (who recently left us): “When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.”


On the contrary, it's better to do something as in a startup, than to complain about public policy. When your system is broken, try to fix it, when that fails, workaround it.


But... it's an extremely specific viewpoint that Startup / Technology solution is the way to fix broken system.

For vast majority of people, the viewpoint would be that elected leaders making the "correct" decisions/rules (whatever we decide those are) is the actual long-term, proper fix. Technology is technology, it's a tool; and societal norms, rules, and regulations guide or decide how we use those tools.


In a perfect world sure. But doing nothing while waiting for a perfect world is far worse than fixing the problem at the wrong level.


Startups, and specifically VC culture, do not have aligned incentives with fixing society; in the end, their aim is to make money, not improve society.


Yes. But most every company makes the world a better place in a way. People pay less for products and services than they get in value - otherwise they wouldn't pay. So everyone ends up better off. There are things like negative externalities that complicate the picture.

In the specific case of uber, people benefit hugely from the service over the old way of how taxis worked (I know, I live in a place where ride sharing is illegal.) Uber's drivers can be thought of as exploited, but they're all there willingly, so I don't buy that for the most part. I've met so many drivers doing it parttime, entrepreneurs, students, retirees. They're better off for having options in general. Nobody is putting a gun to their heads.


Of course we get to decide. As citizens we get to vote and have our say in what we think is right.


> In some cases, no jobs is better than subsistence/dead- end/exploitative jobs. At least the former makes the problem evident, and ups the pressure to do something about it on a society/policy/economy level -- as opposed to helping perpetuate it.

I strongly disagree with this position. Yeah, sure, supporting people at the brink of poverty is one of the government's responsibilities, but taking away one of the few options they have goes in the opposite direction. Most of these gig-economy jobs differ from a regular job in that they're much easier to get, at least in most parts of Europe. If you meet a few basic requirements you're in. For people at risk, mentally ill people, and plenty of other segments of the population this is a real lifeline that they're not getting from anywhere else. This is keeping a roof over they head and food on the table.

Obviously, they're doing it because they can't get a better situation. Taking this option away is making them a lot more vulnerable, and doing them a lot of harm. It's not like they don't realise they're being exploited.

Sure, they should be supported etc. But that's just "shoulds", policy is difficult. For many, this gig-economy is an actual lifeline, that exists right now.


We have seen what happens when someone who should receive Government protection is able to get by without them; those protections are removed.

See the hospitality industry for an example. They have tips, so they don't get minimum wage.

The US government is famously bad at protecting people who need it. Anything which disguised that fact, even a little, should be removed.


We have seen what happens when someone who should receive Government protection is able to get by without them; those protections are removed.

If somebody is capable of providing for themselves, why "should" they be dependent on government services?

They have tips, so they don't get minimum wage.

Employers are required to make up the difference if tips don't reach minimum wage.

Anything which disguised that fact, even a little, should be removed.

Should be ban inexpensive food because it's just disguising how bad the government is at taking care of hungry people?


To remove the gig economy, you need legislative power. But if you have legislative power, you can create those protections.


I know of no one who drives for Uber/Lyft who doesn't think they are doing well. Seriously, where did this meme come about where they are all slaves to Uber? Between what two bring in each week and their mileage deductions they are tempting me at times.

the real tripe in the gig economy is all the pontificating coming down from top how they all care about rights of people, except it only is Western people they care about while those in China and other countries get run over by their governments.

The simple fact is, no employer has to make the job solve all your financial needs. It is up to you to find the job that fulfills your requirements and you can perform safely and well. if that takes more than one job then so be it, many of us have been there before and did it. you don't get anywhere waiting for someone else to fix your life


> I know of no one who drives for Uber/Lyft who doesn't think they are doing well.

Maybe because they didn't do the math on the depreciation of the vehicle + maintenance + car insurance with ride-sharing waivers vs. the income they receive from ride sharing. Then maybe we'd see a different opinion from drivers.


> if that takes more than one job then so be it, many of us have been there before and did it

No amount of hard work buys you the right to hire around wage and employment laws.


What does this even have to do with China?


Not all gig companies are the same.

Uber is not a real business. Nothing about hiring a driver or maintaining or running a car is cheaper now than before Uber. Uber will never be profitable unless people are willing to pay the same amount as for regular taxis or for a private driver (i.e. expensive).

Airbnb on the other hand is a real and vastly profitable business. Yes there need to be tighter regulations because we don’t want Airbnb everywhere. That will have a non-trivial effect on its business. But even after regulation it remains a very profitable and highly appealing consumer and business product.

The other difference is that Uber just gets you from A to B. I will never remember the car nor the driver. Even if the driving experience is great, I won’t be telling my friends about it.

Airbnb on the other hand provides memorable lifetime experiences.

No comparison.


> I will never remember the car nor the driver.

I will never forget the truck, driven by a young man from Haiti whose temporary protective status was days from expiring, that had a hole rusted through the floor pan. It was a scary ass ride, but I genuinely felt he was getting as much as he could before having to go home.

I'll never forget the asshole from NJ who decided that, because we were both white, he cold go on a crazed anti-semitic rant about his home owner's association.

I'll never forget the driver who pulled his SUV over, went around the back, and took a leak--on a busy street in Philly--into a plastic bottle he had back there.

I'll never forget the young woman who couldn't hear me yelling at her to turn her music down, only to find out she was whacked out of her mind.

I'll never forget the interesting ride my wife and I had with a guy who paints commercial aircraft for a living. My wife works in aerospace, and previously in general aviation. Hearing about his contract work was pretty neat.

I'll never forget the older woman who only drives on Fridays to make enough money to go to the movies with her friends and buy popcorn. I was back-and-forth between home and away at the time, and she actually offered to let me join her and her friends at the movies that night because my wife was away and I had nothing better to do.

There are definitely forgettable rides. But I've had a good share of memorable ones myself.

It pays to be human.


Spot on. I've had some crazy rides, and some terrific rides, but I always treat the car and the people with respect, which hasn't lead me astray yet. If you treat your uber/lyft driver like they're glorified taxi drivers, don't be surprised when all you get out of it is a mediocre ride from point A to point B at best.


I mean, they are taxi drivers, I wouldn't even consider them glorified. I'd treat my taxi drivers with respect too. "Glorified automaton" might be a better description for how you shouldn't treat them if you want something other than a mediocre ride.


Come on... that seems a bit dramatic. It just gets you from point A to B? It literally unlocks a ton of new point Bs that you could potentially never access or reasonable visit often.

Let's jump to Washington D.C. If you live in Northern Virginia or Maryland, you could take the Metro into town for a night out, but would almost certainly have a huge issue getting a cab driver to take you home.

Let's jump back to SF. North Beach to the Mission district. Separate sides of the town but without a cab, thats 2-3 bus transfers and forget even getting home late at night when it all stops running.

The accessibility aspect of Uber is massive. I don't think it's fair to discount that simply because the ride itself wasn't memorable...by that aspect, are airplane companies fake businesses? Does anyone really brag about the wonderful economy experience they have on Delta vs. United vs. American Airlines? Not really, but they certainly talk about the accessibility those services offer.


> Nothing about hiring a driver or maintaining or running a car is cheaper now than before Uber.

Uber can use better scheduling algorithms to ensure higher utilization factor of their fleet. If a taxi driver is driving 50% of the time and waiting for a fare other 50%, while Uber driver is driving 90% of the time and waiting 10%, the price for Uber ride could be lower while ensuring the same income level for the driver.


And yet, in practice, the idle and unpaid transit time for rideshare drivers is still quite high.


And yet... higher than taxis?


The only reason that taxis have been able to achieve any decent utilization at all is the medallion system which greatly restricts supply. Without artificially constraining supply at the expense of consumer demand, taxi utilization would be abysmal.


It doesn't really make sense to assume that utilization would be abysmal without constraining supply. The people who operate taxis are rational actors. People who operate taxis will simply exit (or not enter) the business if they're sitting around idle and not making money.


The problem is that vehicles in general cause negative externalities that the people driving them don't pay for, namely: Traffic congestion, localized pollution, and global pollution (CO2). FHVs are definitely susceptible to this phenomenon. Here in NYC we're having to implement a congestion tax in Manhattan to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads.

Admittedly, it is probably better to charge all vehicles for entering the most congested areas by their size (i.e. trucks pay more) than it is to pick and choose by artificially limiting just some types of vehicles while allowing unlimited numbers of others.


What does this have to do with taxis vs Uber? Did you mean to post this comment in some other thread?


The point is that you can't just let the market sort it out because the market doesn't care about negative externalities. There are legitimate reasons to artificially constrain the supply, i.e. implement a medallion system. This comment thread which you've wandered into is about the taxi medallion system.


>Uber is not a real business. Nothing about hiring a driver or maintaining or running a car is cheaper now than before Uber.

It's even worse, outsourcing maintenance, insurance, upkeep and whatnot to individuals is on the aggregate more expensive and time consuming than having a division of labour and a company who can manage these costs in bulk.


Yup. Uber is essentially in the business of selling $10 bills for $5. Certainly there is growth, but...


Not defending uber here -- they're shitty, and need to be replaced by #platformcoop's imho -- but you're perhaps underselling as "just A to B" because uber isn't openning any new "B"s from your "A"s, compared to taxi's.

If you were disabled, or in an urban transit desert or underserved community, then ridesharing is the direct bringer of new B's. That's the reality for a ton of people. This is not fringe. Many people were underserved by taxi's before, and this is huge for them.

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/06/lyft-is-reach...


Uber provides the network of drivers and customers. With less friction anybody can order a taxi for a fixed price that is known upfront in their app. In the old world the price of a ride was mostly determined at the end of the trip and you would be lucky if you paid a lower price than an uber.

Im not a fan of uber nor lyft, although I have to say I like the competition they offer. I hope Tesla delivers their Robotaxi and slashes the whole taxi pricing game.


Yes there need to be tighter regulations because we don’t want Airbnb everywhere.

How come? It seems like a great company to me.


It's not the company they don't like, it's having an AirBNB as your neighbor. Many people don't like to live next to hotel rooms.


> How come?

Oh, I don't know, maybe because every host on the planet will "share" their room/apartment/house at exhoribtant nightly rates in lieu of renting by the month, which leads to housing shortages for people who need a place to live vs. those who are going to visit X part of the world for a few days.

The Airbnb-ification of the world is decidedly interesting for owners, while for everyone else an added hardship whether or not you use the service.


Uber and Lyft did the hard work of making ride-sharing mainstream, but there's really very little they have to offer other than name recognition) over any other player that tries to enter this play. I still strongly believe that some aggregating service like Expedia, Travelocity or Kayak for ride sharing the treats Uber, Lyft or any other player in the market as the equivalent of an airline would work fine in the vast majority of cases.

That, and I firmly believe Uber still deserves to be punished for its past bad behavior on so many fronts. I used to feel for the people working there that didn't contribute to the problem, and worry that any punishment too draconian would hurt them, but Uber got away with stuff so bad for so long, that I think anyone that didn't vote with their conscience and try to find somewhere else to work was taking a calculated risk, and it's not a risk if there's no chance of a negative outcome, so they reap what they sow. Anyone that didn't make the choice to leave ended up contributing to the problem by allowing Uber to ignore the consequences.


In Austin we have smaller ride share services that were able to thrive when Uber and Lyft got kicked out temporarily. They only charged the drivers $1.00 per ride instead of 25%. Such a deal can only be dreamed of since Uber and Lyft came back and crushed all the small players like flies. In my opinion this is not a service that requires billion dollar companies to exist. I would love to see an open source suite of software that allows local companies and municipalities to easily start a ride share service. At least then all of that economic activity would stay in the region instead of getting hoovered up into the pockets of millionaires in San Francisco (nothing against San Francisco or millionaires, I would just rather the local economy benefit).


You know, I also often think about (and have mentioned here) how it seems like an open stack or API of some sort could handle this, and I also used the Austin services back in 2013 when I visited for YAPC. I think it was the first time I ever installed an app to call a ride. I wonder how much that also shaped how I see the industry as it developed.


Uber and the gig economy are just a small part of a much larger trend. American labor has been increasingly devalued since the late 70s. The only difference is, opposed to say offshoring manufacturing jobs, that it's very visible to yuppies in SF and NYC rather than being isolated to rust belt towns and the midwest.


Most taxi drivers were already contractors before smartphones and they won't stop being independent even if Uber dies.

The solution is improving contractor employment laws and services to reflect new reality of the economy (technology lowering the barrier to join a contractor or temp jobs increasing their quantity). Not trying to end something that's not going away and many people find useful but making being a contractor not being treat as the bastard child of employment but a standard means of work.

In Canada you can't get proper unemployment benefits if you're a contractor (and you don't have an option to volunteer into one, you'd have to do it yourself), so if you get seriously sick, as what happened to me, you're S.O.L. for even basic money and have to depend on family. Between that, universal healthcare coverage, and stricter rules on what's defined as a 'full-time job' and you'd eliminate most problems.


The gig economy isn’t going anywhere, so eliminating an option isn’t helpful. Much rather see legislation that gives these workers more protections than a 1099 worker gets today.


>Where gig economy = padding the loss of decent jobs by replacing the bottom end with desperate deals where "non employed" employees, without regular salary, benefits, company provided work tools, etc., make a pittance, while the organizing company gets a cut from millions of transactions.

If you think that's bad, wait until you find out about the small business economy. Millions and millions of people run small businesses that end up losing money over the whole year and they have to pay for their own healthcare.

I can't wait until we legislate away these stupid people who currently have the autonomy to act as independent businesses.


> replacing the bottom end with desperate deals where "non employed" employees ... make a pittance, while the organizing company gets a cut from millions of transactions

The funny thing here is that, apparently, the "non employed employees" were still getting more than what they actually earned the company- which therefore isn't getting a nice cut, but rather a debt, from millions of transactions. So this looks like VC-founded low end jobs.


In a weird way, if you don’t work for those companies it’s basically that billionaires are subsidizing you. I wish they’d just build some parks, cathedrals, affordable housing and directly spend their ungodly amounts of money directly to benefit society though. We should be living in a gilded society for how much we make.


As a consumer, I love that a company more reliable than taxis exists. My mom has mobility because of Uber and Lyft. If they exploit folks, the drivers should get other jobs. (When it’s automated, there won’t be jobs in which people would be exploited)

For me the issue is unreliability of Services like UberEats.


“Uber, which aspires to become an Amazon-like store for all forms of transportation, is also investing in the development of autonomous cars, public transit deals, the expansion of its bicycle and scooter business, and in its freight delivery platform.”

Remember how amazon was never profitable for years and everyone missed the boat on crazy upside. Remember Tesla ? Remember facebook and twitter before they started making money on ads ? Just because of 2 quarter loss you can’t expect uber to shut down. Not even close, their product teams are already figuring out where to get more money from.

Its a different deal If you hate uber and want it to shut down but otherwise this is business as usual. I can’t imagine my life without uber.


Except Uber is not just 'not profitable' they are upside down after having been floated on nothing but VC money. Paying someone $2 for every $1 they give you is never going to be a sustainable business model.


They will raise prices in that case. Or we have yet to see some kind of advertising model from them.


> I can’t imagine my life without uber.

You literally can't imagine your life, if say, you lived in Vancouver?


I have never been there so really I cannot imagine :)...joking aside, I meant it in my current context. This can change in 10 years but honestly I do not enjoy driving in traffic so I am thankful for uber.


That's actually a pretty good point. I vehemently dislike commuting in traffic, so I organize my home and work locations/flexibility to avoid it. Adding Uber as an option would potentially give me additional flexibility on the home/work front.


“without regular salary, benefits, company provided work tools, etc.,” so you’re against contractors in general? honestly your whole post reads like a naive rant against something you don’t really understand.


I think its important to point out that at least some of the value realized from cheap labor in the form of gig contractors is transferred to consumers. We get goods and services for cheaper than would otherwise be possible.

Uber et al make convenient villains (and for I don't by any means think they are innocent), but we should also recognize the consequences of our collective choices.


Not sure why I bother anymore because people don't appreciate these types of comments, but I am convinced the solution is to replace the monopoly companies with public decentralized protocols that will enable a large shared network of customers to be serviced by a competing field of service companies that plug into it.


Without a plan on how to accomplish that replacement, that's more a wish than a solution.


I think the only way to make it viable is paired with Universal Basic Income, so the gig worker has a floor for their income.

Maybe UBI won't provide a livable income, but might enable "gig workers" to survive with a dignified standard of living.


To me your two sentiments seem opposed to each other. If Uber is struggling financially, they will be forced to squeeze their drivers harder, and the drivers will end up with an even worse deal than they have now. So rooting for Uber to lose money is kind of like rooting for a bunch of close-to-minimum-wage workers to make less money.

I guess it’s possible that Uber does so badly financially, they cease to exist. I just find it really hard to imagine that they would be forced to raise prices enough to make the old days of taxis you hailed by waving your hands on the street come back. So to me, Uber doing badly is just bad news for their drivers.


How is Lyft doing compared to Uber? To me, Lyft always had a more sane approach to growth while everything about Uber's corporate just gave me the willies. If Uber went away, I think the world would be a better place. I would feel bad about the drivers, but most of them are driving for multiple people anyways already.


There's another side to the equation of course. Drivers have a choice.

If Uber were to "squeeze drivers", drivers would stop driving for them. They'd drive for Lyft. They'd drive for some other company. They'd stay home.

The supply would crash.

They have no choice but to raise prices.


Salary and benefits? Seems like you are not concerned about people who benefit from driving for Uber as a part time job.


The stocks going up for some reason.


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