A member of the media test drives a Tesla Motors Inc., Model S car equipped with Autopilot at the Tesla Motors Inc. headquarters in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. Tesla Motors Inc. will begin rolling out the first version of its highly anticipated “autopilot” features to owners of its all-electric Model S sedan Thursday. Autopilot is a step toward the vision of autonomous or self-driving cars, and includes features like automatic lane changing and the ability of the Model S to parallel park for you. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
Tesla Model S car equipped with autopilot Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Taxi Drivers’ New Uber Defense: Lobby for Self-Driving Car Bans

Jan 06, 2017

A lobbying group for taxi and limo drivers in upstate New York wants the state to ban self-driving cars for at least 50 years.

In a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the New York Senate and Assembly, the Upstate Transportation Association warned that job creation promised by Travis Kalanick, chief executive of Uber, the ride-sharing service, is a phantom, according to Gothamist and other reports.

Legislators are weighing an upstate expansion of services like Uber and Lyft. The services already operate in New York City and Long Island. Cuomo is expected to address the issue Monday night in his state of the state address.

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Uber has promised that if it is able to operate throughout the state, 13,000 jobs will be created. But, as UTA president John Tomassi points out in the letter, Kalanick has also stated that the future belongs autonomous cars. Not to belabor the point, but a driverless car will not need a driver.

"Anyone who believes Uber will create jobs should also be willing to protect them from automation," Tomassi wrote. "If you approve a ride-sharing expansion without a ban on driverless cars, you will be turning new jobs into lost jobs." The UTA could not be reached for comment.

In response to the UTA letter, an Uber spokesman told Fortune, "Another day, another attempt by taxi special interests to throw spaghetti at the wall to protect their bottom line."

Last month, Uber ended a self-driving car test in San Francisco after the California Department of Motor Vehicles pulled the registrations for the self-driving cars.

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This is latest battle to flare up as the public starts to see the impact that advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will have on their livelihoods. And since self-driving vehicles are rapidly approaching reality, drivers are at the front lines. This week, for example, the giant CES electronics show in Las Vegas was packed with news about autonomous vehicles.

Taxi and limo drivers will be affected, as will nearly two million U.S. truck drivers who also could see their jobs dry up.

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