No, Uber is not a path to personal freedom and financial independence.
Far from it.
According to internal Uber calculations, provided to BuzzFeed News, based on data spanning more than a million rides and covering thousands of drivers in three major U.S. markets—Denver, Detroit, and Houston—drivers in each of the three markets overall earned less than an average of $13.25 an hour after expenses.
Uber says it doesn’t know how much drivers on its platform actually earn per hour, after expenses. Still, Uber’s internal pricing models, found in the spreadsheets provided to BuzzFeed News, do generate rough estimates of driver net pay. But in internal communications seen by BuzzFeed News, Uber explicitly discourages employees from comparing these estimates to the minimum wage.
A BuzzFeed News review of the rough internal net pay estimates contained in the leaked documents determined that the models Uber used are highly abstracted and oversimplify certain key calculations. Rather than relying on Uber’s figures, BuzzFeed News conducted an independent analysis of the raw trip data and driver data. Uber subsequently recalculated BuzzFeed’s estimates using a broader and more detailed set of internal data — which it declined to share directly with BuzzFeed News. The company did, however, conduct this recalculation according to BuzzFeed News’ methodology — which it said was “solid” — and did so in the presence of a BuzzFeed News editor and reporter.
Based on these calculations, it’s possible to estimate that Uber drivers in late 2015 earned approximately $13.17 per hour after expenses in the Denver market (which includes all of Colorado), $10.75 per hour after expenses in the Houston area, and $8.77 per hour after expenses in the Detroit market, less than any earnings figure previously released by the company.
What this means is that Uber drivers (at least in Denver, Houston, and Detroit) earn about the same as or less than the average for “taxi drivers and chauffeurs,” which in May 2015 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) was $13 an hour.
And just so we understand how little drivers make—inside and outside the so-called sharing economy—the average hourly pay for production and nonsupervisory workers in May of last year was $20.99.
Or just compare that to the net worth of Travis Kalanick, the CEO of Uber Technologies: $6.2 billion.
Clearly, the only sharing going on in Uber is from the bottom up.