For better or worse Uber is changing how millions of Americans get around and make a living. Those changes amount to a paradigm shift that will disrupt our economy, our communities, our lives and our transportation system.
Uber; and its many imitators such as Lyft, are a disruptive mix of technology and business practices with the potential to create a new economy that is vastly different from the one we have now. The best way to see what this economy will look like is to examine the changes Uber is making to our communities.
Seven Ways in Which Uber is Changing How Americans Live and Work
- By turning 327,000 drivers into independent contractors with far more control of their work and lifestyle than traditional workers. These people are more independent and less likely to put up with constraints or hierarchy than traditional workers. This increased freedom will change both work and the political culture.
- Reviving and revitalizing the labor movement. Uber drivers are more likely to unionize, take legal action, and engage in protests and political lobbying than traditional workers. Yet the unions they form; such as New York’s Independent Driver’s Guild, will be nothing like traditional organized labor. Uber drivers who reject corporate hierarchy will also say no to traditional union bosses.
- Transforming finance by giving vast numbers of people easy access to capital. Uber now leases cars directly to drivers based on their earnings and ignores traditional credit reports. This gives individual drivers even more control and directly challenges the cab industry with a lower cost alternative.
- Effectively rewriting labor laws and local government regulations on taxis and businesses by creating legal conflicts. Uber has generated a vast number of lawsuits and legal battles, some of which have the potential to transform the regulatory environment in the same way the civil rights movement disrupted race relations.
- Disrupting the auto industry by slowly changing carmakers into transportation providers. Ford (NYSE: F) and General Motors (NYSE: GM) are both developing their own ridesharing apps. GM has also purchased the defunct ridesharing app Sidecar and invested heavily in Lyft.
- Encouraging the development and commercialization of self-driving vehicles. Uber is investing heavily in self-driving car and truck technology. It is also providing an effective test platform for autonomous vehicles. Uber might become the platform by which such vehicles reach America’s streets.
- By changing the way people think about work and jobs. There is a growing generation of Americans being acclimatized the idea that they can work for cash when they want and never need a traditional job. This holds the potential for launching disruptive cultural and generational conflicts as great and as destructive as great as those of the 1960s.
Whether we like it or not Uber has the potential to completely disrupt economic and political systems that have existed for generations or even centuries. The gig economy it has launched will make America vastly different place.