Aug 19, 2016 ยท 2 minutes

Yesterday, a judge in California rejected Uber's much celebrated (by the company) $100m class action settlement with its drivers.

The settlement was supposed to end a lawsuit by drivers who claimed they were employees, and thus entitled to employee pay and benefits. Even at $100m most observers agreed that Uber was getting a bargain. Had the drivers won the case, Uber's entire business model might have been rendered unsustainable.

Now the company has to go back to the drawing board and find a number more agreeable to the court. That number could be anything up to the total damages that might have been won has the case continued: $850 million.

No wonder, then, that Travis Kalanick is on a real "let's get rid of these damned drivers" kick. As I wrote back in 2014, Kalanick has been long awaiting the day when he could fire all of his "contractors" and run his business entirely with robots.

"I love [self driving cars] all day long," he said. "The Uber experience is expensive because it's not just the car but the other dude in the car. When there's no other dude in the car, the cost [of taking an Uber] gets cheaper than owning a vehicle."

When an audience member asked how drivers might feel about his dream of making them all redundant, he responded:

"I would say to them this is the way the world is going... We have to find a way to change with the world."

Now, as everyone has reported this week, Uber is preparing to launch a trial of its own self-driving car in Pittsburgh. Although by "self driving", the company actually means "will have a driver in the driver's seat, holding the wheel." But it's a start.

But, perhaps wary of further angering his litigious army of drivers, Kalanick is now telling a slightly different story when it comes to the fate of humans behind the wheel. In an example of the kind of disingenuousness that one might expect from Donald Trump, Kalanick insisted that driverless cars might in fact result in more drivers behind the wheel.

Speaking to his preferred PR outlet, Business Insider, he explained:

"If you're talking about a city like San Francisco or the Bay Area generally, we have, like, 30,000 active drivers. We are going to go from 30,000 to, let's say, hypothetically, a million cars, right? But when you go to a million cars, you're still going to need a human-driven parallel, or hybrid. And the reason why is because there are just places that autonomous cars are just not going to be able to go or conditions they're not going to be able to handle. And even though it is going to be a smaller percentage of the whole, I can imagine 50,000 to 100,000 drivers, human drivers, alongside a million-car network.

"So I don't think the number of human drivers will go down anytime soon. In fact, I think in an autonomous world, it goes up. In absolute figures. Of course, in percentage it's down."

Of course.