In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Uber’s CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, 51, discusses the COVID-19 pandemic and the concept of laborism as questions and legal battles remain regarding the employment status of rideshare drivers. He believes that self-driving cars are the next big expansion for the company.
According to Khosrowshahi, the debates regarding employment status for Uber drivers should be a nonissue because the majority of drivers work less than fulltime: “We’ve always been an engine for people to find a bridge, essentially to earn, or to get an education, take care of a loved one, etc. Over 90% of our drives actually work less than fulltime.”
Khosrowshahi believes Uber has already made sufficient changes when it comes to AB5 by having riders pay drivers directly, allowing drivers to set their own price, and providing drivers will full information as to whether or not they accept a ride.
In the event Uber would have to classify drives as employees, the company would have to provide workers with fixed schedules, meal breaks, and state-mandated benefits regardless of how many hours they work.
During the interview, Khosrowshahi discussed how if AB5 changes how Uber classifies its employees, then other companies will need to reevaluate and reclassify as well: “If you’re of the opinion that Uber is an employee with this new model, then you’d be of the opinion that Airbnb is employing their hosts as well and eBay is employing their sellers. We really are in this new model a technology platform that’s allowing riders and drivers to essentially transact together. And we think that very much does comply with AB5.”
In regard to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company’s delivery business has accelerated significantly. The rideshare business, however, took a hit, and it seems drivers in the United States are coming back to the app slower when compared to other countries.
In the future, Khosrowshahi sees self-driving cars expanding its business, but not taking it over: “As we introduce robot cars, they will do the simplest routes. And they will allow us actually to reduce the price of Uber, which will then bring more demand into the network, which will allow us actually to hire more drivers. So while 100% of our routes are being driven by drivers now, that may go down to 50% over a period of years, but it will be 50% of a market that is 10 times bigger, and ultimately, it will result in us needing more drivers on our platform.”