In New York, the combined number of taxis and ride-hailing rose by 59% from 2013-17, although the latter put many of the former out of business; their total mileage increased by more than a third.
Despite Uber’s success in repealing labor regulations and measures to reduce traffic flow, it is still losing money. Its hill: about $25 billion, between 2016 and 2020.
Uber not only transformed the taxi industry at the expense of drivers, but also filled the streets with cars and made traffic worse: it also “kept investors’ money flowing through several bold visions as it failed to turn a profit” provide ride-hailing services more effectively,” writes Marx.
It burned through billions of dollars dabbling in micromobility services, but failed to automate drivers and launch flying cars.
But Marx argues that losses don’t mean Uber hasn’t generated any gains for capital. “Even if Uber ultimately dies,” its contribution to the class struggle to curb gig economy workers’ rights will live on — and it could be “a bigger win in the long run” for capital if governments don’t act to reverse that.
Max, an industry technology reporter and presenter Technology can’t save us A podcast that contextualizes the behavior of tech bros in the social processes in which they participate. They “move fast and break things”; they undermine labor rights and state regulation; and the way their wealth is allocated exacerbates the climate crisis.
According to Marx, this is suitable for the government.In the decade after the recession, venture capitalists who funded tech companies’ loss-making ventures “acted as America’s central planners,” as new york magazine Writer Eric Levitz said it.
“While the political right criticizes the government’s decision to provide support for specific companies and sectors, they ignore how a group of powerful, Ivy League-educated wealthy individuals control billions of dollars,” Marx wrote. They used the funds to pick and choose companies that could monopolize a particular market segment and fund them when they recorded big losses, […] Drive out competition. “
Not just Uber. Marx writes that Google and Tesla did the most in the early 2010s to advance the “dream of ubiquitous self-driving cars”—a fantasy that has yet to be realized.
This dream isn’t just about self-driving cars. It’s bigger and more insidious: the idea that “we can all step back and let the tech sector fix the problems that have accumulated over the past century from bad political decisions in transportation” — problems that have cost millions human life and destroying communities and scatter cities for cars.
But self-driving cars “are not a solution to the problems that cars create, because they are still cars themselves”. They take up too much space; they encourage a car-oriented model of urban growth; and they introduce a new set of vulnerabilities.
One of the most cringe-worthy stories Marx tells is that of Elon Musk’s ludicrous Boring Company, which aims to tunnel under cities.
Musk dismissed the notion of induced traffic — the fact that more roads beget more traffic, developed over decades of traffic research — as “one of the most irrational theories I’ve ever heard.” One”, and has vowed to build “ultra-safe, earthquake-proof urban underground tunnels to solve traffic”.
Those plans all but fell through, as did plans for flying cars.
Marx shows how these plans reflect the prerogative of Silicon Valley movers and influencers. To them, transportation policy is about clearing the way for wealthy car owners to move faster — and break more stuff, I suppose.
Unlike driverless cars, electric vehicles could indeed work, Marx argues — but mass adoption would bring new environmental dangers from the demand for metals and other materials.
A car is a car, and tackling the climate crisis means reducing the number of cars: “Instead of trying to match the size of personal electric cars with personal petrol or diesel cars, the focus should be on getting people from driving to public transport and cycling, while Build more walkable communities where essentials are closer to home.”
Marx doesn’t cover the role of big automakers using their foothold in electric vehicle manufacturing to wash down their unsustainable primary businesses, much as oil and gas companies do with small investments in renewable energy.
Are there any auto journalists out there who do thorough research on Ford, VW, Nissan, etc. like Marx did in Silicon Valley? If so, they will swim upstream. As the tech bros made their disastrous entry into urban transit systems, journalists and ride-hailers bought into the stories they were peddling.
“In the years after Uber launched, and especially after it began competing with the taxi industry, the media adopted Silicon Valley language to echo marketing claims that innovative technologies were being developed to better disrupt traditional industries,” Marx writes. “
I recommend nowhere to go Not just for what it says about transportation, but for its attitude towards technology more generally.
Marx understands that gadgets—whether it’s ride-hailing apps and electric cars that work, or flying cars that don’t—need to be considered in their social context. He also compares this generation of technology to the way in which the introduction of the automobile to cities in rich countries in the early 20th century harmed humanity.
Moreover, Marx here shows how the relationship of private capital to the state matters; and the assumption in our culture that a technological fix will solve the problems capitalism has amassed for us is as dangerous as the fantasy of a Silicon Valley wunderkind.
nowhere to go Shows how those child prodigies are empowered by perilous capitalism to develop technology in ways that hurt us all. “How do we shape technology to benefit people, not harm them?” This question can only really be asked in our struggle with capital.
In a forward-looking chapter in the final chapter, Marx welcomes the steps taken by Paris, Oslo and other cities to decentralize the car hub, but insists we need to go further. We need publicly supported mobile apps, not Uber apps.
The transportation system must become the embodiment of “public affluence”, not inequality and private wealth. Computerized transportation technology must work in tandem with urban planning, which is also about technology—even if they’re not all gaudy gizmos.
nowhere to go Far ahead of a depressing pile of texts that whitewash techno-optimism with a “Leftist” rather than understanding its social function, e.g. Holly Jean Barker and Andreas Malm Embrace geoengineering — not to mention vulgar ‘ecomodernism’ Jacobins Magazine Leigh Phillips.
Socialism urgently needs to understand technology in its social context. Otherwise, we will never learn how to develop the technological systems we need—including urban transportation systems that minimize the role of cars—to live better lives and avoid dangerous climate change.
Simon Pirani is an emeritus professor at Durham University, UK, and author of Burning Out: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption (Pluto, 2018).He wrote a blog at peoplenature.org. Follow him on Twitter: @SimonPirani1.