Autonomous vehicles are our wake up call to negate the downsides of automation

Ben Metcalfe
2 min readDec 16, 2016


Danny Vee, ‘The Driver’s Rights’ [sic]

This is the face of the American worker who has realized automation is on the cusp of ending his livelihood. His emotionally charged video is recorded the day after Uber launched it’s autonomous vehicle service in San Francisco.

Clearly Danny Vee (an Uber driver from Torrance, California) who created ‘The Driver’s Rights’ [sic] campaign is not going to be successful in banning autonomous vehicles from cities. And my own conflict of interest aside, I don’t think Uber, Google or the car manufacturers are wrong to develop and deploy autonomous technology.

But our industry needs to humanize and empathize with those who are directly impacted by the work we are doing to forward this kind of technology.

Building a company like WP Engine, releasing an API Platform at MySpace and developing code for the BBC News Website have all been impactful experiences in my own career. But their success was not a zero sum game and never was to the detriment of someone else’s prosperity.

I’m now realizing how much of a stark contrast that is to the work I was doing at Uber in both product and public policy.

As engineers, product developers, entrepreneurs and investors the work we are doing in our careers today is suddenly having profound levels of impact upon society that most of us have never witnessed before. Impact that demands far greater levels of responsibility and consideration that we are used to providing.

Bluntly, this was something I found to be lacking during my time at Uber and caused great personal discomfort.

I don’t have all the answers yet. But just like it’s far too late for Danny to do anything about autonomous Ubers, we need to make sure it doesn’t become too late for those of us inside the industry to implement strategies that reduce the negative impact of our work in this area.

If the recent US election has taught us anything, it is that there is a large section of the workforce who are hurting and already feeling left behind. Most of them have little awareness of the age of automation that is upon is, and the direct impact it will have.

Automation is coming whether we build it or someone else does. But with 47% of all US jobs at high risk from automation, we will soon rue the day we as an industry ignored the need to help negate the downsides to blue-collar and middle-class America… and beyond.



Ben Metcalfe

Founder & General Partner @Monochrome_VC • Co-Founder @WPEngine • Ex- @RidgeVC, @Uber, @BBCNews & @MySpace • Former Product-Focused Entrepreneur & Executive