The transportation firms have all the power. Cab drivers are a lower wage crew, they operate in cities that usually have very grid like patterns of roads and synchronized lights (sorry Boston), and they are already valued next to nothing. A robot car does not require a tip, therefore the fares could be raised to secure those expenditures for the firm. Why do you think cab drivers have been replaced in major cities with fresh off the boat immigrants at every turn? It is a low barrier to entry job with few skills needed and personal contact is not necessary. The last white, English speaking cab driver in NYC was John Travolta in "Look Who's Talking" in 1989. Capital and management values labor inputs low in the transportation business. Long haul trucking is a bit different due to owner operators and problems posed by inclement weather in wide open spaces. An unspoken bonus to transportation firms would be a reduction to their liability costs and insurance. Robot cars will secure the labor input into a more securely controlled input for long term planning.
This is not new news, and writers and journalists need to stop thinking this is 1950. Capital always wants more cheap labor, but labor does have value. If labor can be turned into a steady input, metrics can be created to track and respond to product demand better. Let me quote an intelligent political economist,
to see mechanization and automation purely as a problem in comparative cost is greatly to minimize their role - and to pay further for the error in confining economic goals, and economic calculation, to profit maximization. The technostructure, as noted, seeks technical progressiveness for its own sake when this is not in conflict with other goals. More important, it seeks certainty in the supply and price of all the prime requisites of production. Labor is a prime requisite. And a blue collar labor force, especially if subject to the external authority of a union, introduces a major element of uncertainty and danger. Who can tell what wages will have to be paid to get the men? Who can assess the likelihood, the costs and the consequences of a strike?
In contrast mechanization ads to certainty. Machines do not go on strike. Their prices are subject to the stability, which we have seen, is inherent in the contractual relationships between large firms. The capital by which the machinery is provided comes from the internal savings of the firm. Both its supply and cost are thus fully under the control of the firm. More white collar workers and more members of the technostructure will be required with mechanization.That is not an evil, right wing economist writing in the Reagan '80s about the coming application of computer technology to manufacturing. That is Harvard Professor and left wing titan John Kenneth Galbraith writing in 1967. Making labor a more reliable input is a benefit to capital and planning as well as a boon to management. The entire offshoring and outsourcing movement has destroyed unskilled or semi-skilled labor's earnings but placed greater focus on management. Demands on supply chain management, logistics, vendor selection have all risen. Those are white collar worker and management realms (Galbraith's technostructure). For transportation firms, tthis means less revenue is to be allotted to drivers and more can be secured for managers, dispatchers, administrative employees, executives and capital.
This will happen. Cab drivers are a non-entity as a political force, and truckers did not stop the transportation deregulation of the 1970s. If manufacturing firms can replace tool cutter-grinders with machines and have error rates their fathers never would have dreamed possible, we can replace cab drivers with robots who will not get in accidents, not drive you to the wrong hotel because they do not understand you, not be rude jerks acting like they are doing you a favor and not a job, and most importantly, never get sick, have a kid, leave the firm or demand more pay. This will be an easy sell to Americans who already dislike a majority of the cab drivers in metropolitan areas. In other words, the customer's superior experience aligns with management's perfect pet worker.