Yellow Cab Drivers: The Forgotten Product Development Stakeholder
By: David Lieber, Research Associate
Cab drivers’ sense of autonomy, flexibility, and mobility is diminishing. In an on-demand economy, to what extent do drivers feel heard? Why is it that every time I enter a cab, drivers are venting about their experiences with the industry and their customers?
On a small, busy street in the Meatpacking District, I hailed a cab driven by a man bickering with a young woman. “What just happened?” I asked. “Young people stand on the side of the road staring at their phones not putting their hand out until you’re right there,” he lamented. “How am I supposed to know if you’re waiting for Uber, Lyft, Via? You put your hand out earlier, so I stopped for you. If I had stopped for her and she was waiting for one of those, I would have lost you and her.”
My conversations with frustrated cab drivers only bolster what Marieke Glöss, a Informatics and Media Department Member of Uppsala University, asserts in her article “Designing for Labour: Uber and the On-Demand Mobile Workforce.” She says that “ridesharing has transformed ‘conditions of the work itself,’” impacting taxi labor and the way cab drivers must learn to navigate the new ecosystem. I believe that NYC Yellow Cab’s digital infrastructure and associated experience must draw upon and reflect these new behaviors and new labor conditions. I’m not convinced yet that NYC has effectively seized the opportunity.
Cab drivers have a lot to say, and I think that there is a lot to learn from their nuanced perspectives. In fact, I’ve begun this work myself. I treat every ride in a yellow cab, Lyft, Uber, or Via as a chance to understand the perspectives of drivers. As Glöss says, “the design of new technology is also about creating new labor opportunities…and how we might think about our responsibilities in designing these labor relations.”
How might we reconcile drivers’ perspectives knowing the shifting NYC ridesharing/Yellow Cab ecosystem?