People across the Bay Area woke up Wednesday morning to the same email I did from one of our hometown ride-hailing services. It told us that self-driving Ubers would start picking up passengers in San Francisco as part of a pilot program.
"Self-driving cars have been picking up and dropping off riders on the streets of Pittsburgh for the last 3 months, and now we're excited to bring them to our hometown," the email read.
One might expect that San Francisco Uber drivers -- who have often had a contentious relationship with their corporate bosses -- wouldn't be all that excited about the move that many see as a first step that will eventually lead to Uber drivers being put out of their jobs (and that the California Department of Motor Vehicles has said "must cease" until Uber gets the proper permit).
But at least three Uber drivers giving rides around the Mission and South of Market on Wednesday morning didn't seem too worried about their potential obsolescence.
Jason Bow has been driving part time for Uber for the past two years. He's taking a "what will be, will be" approach to the driverless car situation.
"If [Uber with drivers] phases out, then it won't be there," Bow said. "If it goes on longer, then I'll still do it until it's phased out."
Bow says he drives for Uber only a few hours each week, and he looks at the few hundred dollars a week he earns as "a cushion." But he says things would be different if he relied on Uber for a full-time income.
"I would definitely be concerned if this was my main gig," he said. "I would be very worried."
Although Uber is Muaad Almaliki's main gig, he says he's not worried. He says as long as Uber stays popular, there will be enough demand to keep drivers like him in a job, regardless of a driverless option.
"The business is still the same," Almaliki said. "We're going to still get good money for a full-time job anyway."
Almaliki says he has faith that God -- and the corporate heads at Uber -- will look out for him and his fellow drivers.
"I believe Uber won't leave us alone," he said. "They're going to do something to make us happy, to make good money same as before."
Terra Brown isn't looking for any divine or corporate intervention to save her job -- she thinks the whole driverless car thing is going to fail because it will cut out the human interaction that she says people want when they use Uber.
"With a self-driving car, it's not going to be able to do that," Brown said. "You can't get conversation with a car. What's it going to say to you?"
She says just as cashiers have survived self-checkout, humans will be necessary to make services like UberEATS keep functioning.
"Who's going to pick up the food? The car?" she asked while laughing. "Who's going to walk the food up those five flights of stairs? The car? No, it's going to be a human being."
Not everyone is as copacetic about the move as these three.
"First, Uber has attempted to avoid labor laws by denying that its drivers are employees," said Shannon Liss-Riordan, a Boston-based lawyer who has filed class-action lawsuits against Uber and Lyft on behalf of drivers. "Next, it is moving to eliminate the drivers altogether, which would be a pretty surefire way not to have to deal with all those pesky worker protections."