A common criticism of on-demand taxi services such as Uber, Lyft, etc., is that they aren’t actually the “wave of the future” as they are often portrayed in the media, but rather a demonstration of the fact that, for some demographics, there’s not much work out there anymore that can provide an actual living wage.
Critics argue that all that services such as Uber do is undercut the ability for taxi drivers, bus drivers, etc., to make ends meet — and also that drivers for the on-demand services in question often don’t make ends meet either, but simply stick with the job because there are no better options.
As a new data point to that position, it’s worth bringing attention to a recent demonstration against Uber in Chile — one that saw the largest airport in the country, located in the capital of Santiago, effectively shut down by a protest by taxi drivers. At least one person is known to have died “in relation to the protest” (though by way of heart attack, so it’s not clear how related the death actually is).
Reuters provides more: “Taxi drivers protesting the growth of mobile ride hailing applications such as Uber and Cabify blocked the main road to Chile’s principal airport in capital Santiago on Monday, leading to one death and wreaking havoc on travelers’ plans.
“Santiago-based LATAM Airlines, the region’s biggest carrier, as well as budget carrier Sky suffered delays, local media reported. Television images showed traffic backed up for miles (kilometers), while many passengers resorted to walking along the highway. One 65-year-old Brazilian tourist stuck in traffic died of a cardiovascular event, Chilean police said without offering any further details. A medical helicopter evacuated the man, but it was too late, they added.”
At least 15 people have already been arrested in relation to the protest.
I’d like to use this as an opportunity to pose a couple of questions. Certainly not new questions, but ones that I’ve yet to hear any adequate answers to.
Presuming that robotaxis and autonomous semi trucks do enter widespread use over the coming decades, what happens to those who will lose their jobs? Taxi and trucking sector jobs are some of the best options of last resort (as far as employment goes) for many people. What happens to these people as their jobs are automated? How will the social problems that accompany the loss of these jobs be dealt with?
The answers to these questions that I’ve heard to date don’t seem to amount to much more than hand waving or scapegoating… The possible automation of these industries will leave an even more impoverished working landscape than the one that we have now — which will predictably lead to a further degradation of the social and cultural landscape.
Shouldn’t this be troubling more people? Or do people not even truly understand what’s coming (as the growing social and geopolitical problems of the world begin further colliding with the growing environmental ones over the coming years)?