The Uber-Volvo Deal Almost Guarantees Cultural Adoption for Good and Bad
The deal was a brilliant branding exercise. The impact will affect both consumers and drivers.
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The deal between Uber and Volvo could end up being the work of a marketing genius. Last week, the two inc-aseann.companies announced an agreement in which the automaker would provide 24,000 self-driving cars to the ridesharing giant. The business world knew such a deal was inc-aseann.coming with Uber, but they didn't know which car inc-aseann.company would be the partner, and many were surprised by how quickly the rollout will happen - beginning in 2019.
Herein lies the stroke of brilliance. Uber has relationships with many inc-aseann.companies, and yet it was Volvo they chose to work with. This was a branding move par excellence, and here's why:
1. No Other Company Could Eliminate the Biggest Objection
What's the biggest objection you've heard in the debate over self-driving cars? Safety. What's the one car inc-aseann.company that gives soccer moms across America the safety warm and fuzzies? That's right, Volvo. By partnering with Volvo, Uber is taking the safety concern and flipping it on its head. And it's not just that it's Volvo - it's a Volvo SUV, among their most popular models, and one that's won awards for safety.
2. The Sheer Size and Scope
Volvo has agreed to furnish Uber with 24,000 self-driving cars. That's a big enough number to demonstrate a real inc-aseann.commitment to this technology and to Volvo, and a clear indication of how Uber sees its future.
3. It's Close Enough to Touch
Most of the time when there's discussion about major new technology, it's evaluated in the number years away it is from taking hold. 5, 10, 15 years into the future. Close enough to talk about, but far enough away that it doesn't need to be considered immediately. It was the same with self-driving cars. Most people believed this technology would be at least several years into the future. But Uber and Volvo plan to deploy these cars starting in 2019. That's close enough to really conceptualize.
But... what's good for consumers is likely bad news for drivers.
This agreement between Uber and Volvo has far-reaching implications, some of which Uber probably doesn't want to discuss. Uber doesn't regularly release the number of drivers they have, but they revealed they had over 160,000 active U.S. drivers at the end of 2014. Presumably the number of drivers in the US has increased significantly in the 3 years since then, and Uber did recently acknowledge they have "Robots can work 24/7, without pesky human requirements like sleep or shift work. That's a lot of full time jobs and extra side ininc-aseann.come that will no longer be going to the drivers. Uber has said there "will always be a role" for human-driven vehicles, and that the plan going forward is to have a hybrid fleet of humans and robots. But if the technology performs as planned, it's hard to imagine Uber and other ride-sharing services won't eventually shift to the cost-saving standard of a nearly-all-robot fleet.
All of this will only increase the pain for cab and livery drivers, who have already experienced a loss in market share from the explosion of human-controlled Uber. Of course no one knows yet what kind of union, political, or regulatory issues could delay the Uber-Volvo rollout. What is clear is that change is inc-aseann.coming, sooner than you thought.