Uber is moving into Dallas, Texas, as part of its self-driving initiative, but it won’t be operating autonomous vehicles. Instead, the company said Tuesday, it will deploy a fleet of cars with human operators to map the urban landscape and capture data on real-world driving scenarios that will be used to train algorithms on how to safely control vehicles.
The ride-hailing company plans to plug the data captured by cameras and sensors into its self-driving system and run it in simulations and on a test track.
Uber has taken a more cautious development approach after a woman was killed in March 2018 by a robot Uber vehicle that didn’t detect her walking across the street at night, and the backup driver didn’t intervene because she was looking at her phone.
Earlier this year, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi expressed confidence that Uber’s self-driving Volvo XC90 SUV would be on the roads in 2020.
Uber is also under a shadow from a California bill signed into law this week that requires Uber and Lyft to redefine their contract workers as employees, which would add enormous payroll and benefit costs.
The AB5 law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsome, D, on Sept. 18, is designed to prevent all companies, including trucking and delivery firms, from misclassifying workers as independent contractors to avoid providing basic worker protections such as minimum wages, worker compensation and paid leave.
The test used to distinguish a worker’s independence hinges on whether the work is “outside the usual course” of the company’s main business, if management directs how and when the work is done or the worker doesn’t have their own legal business entity.
Uber is trying to dodge the law by saying it’s a technology company with an app, not a transportation company, and that their drivers, not the riders, are their customers.
While Uber claims the law won’t affect their workers, Chief Legal Officer Tony West laid out plans for some worker improvements of its own, such as guaranteed minimum earnings, access to sick leave, injury protection, and a bargaining voice.
Rideshare drivers, in reaction to Uber and Lyft cutting mileage rates and going public, have been organizing, striking, and pressuring lawmakers and companies for change. About 5,000 drivers have joined a Los Angeles union called Rideshare Drivers Unite (RDU).
“The democracy of RDU is based on the rideshare drivers’ bill of rights: fair pay, transparency, and just-cause termination” Nicole Moore, a member of the RDU organizing committee said on the The Rideshare Guy podcast. “[The companies] can’t just deactivate people because [they] feel like it and the algorithm noticed something that makes no sense and [they aren’t] going to tell you what it is. It’s just wrong.”
Drivers don’t know what the rules are on mileage reimbursement, acceptance rates, destinations and other issues, she claimed.