The company has adjusted its thinking about the role drivers will play in the self-driving future. Should self-driving vehicles flood the streets, Uber now believes it may always need some humans behind the wheel to help meet demand. But profitability will remain a challenge so long as it continues to split the fare from every ride with contractors while also pouring money into incentives for drivers and discounts for riders – tactics Uber relies on to fend off competition.
Uber now hopes it can grow to a scale where the volume of rides will help sustain the business, allowing it to fully dominate markets without big expenditures on rider discounts or driver incentives. That’s a tough prospect in places like the US, where Uber has to compete with rival Lyft’s prices.