I never pondered who was driving for Uber until I saw a Tesla with an Uber sign on it waiting outside the university. I realized that I needed to re-examine my presuppositions. I had presumed that most people who drove for Uber needed the money and most Tesla drivers were rich.
I guessed that Uber drivers were desperate enough to join Uber’s rigged game because they either didn’t have formal training or their certificates were not accepted in Canada. Some might also have another fulltime job and Uber was their side hustle, but that still pointed to a lack of cash. A recent article in the Globe and Mail claimed that most Uber drivers made an average of eight dollars an hour—once their downtime was calculated—and in 2022, the Uber company took 27.9 per cent of the cost. I wondered where that left my Uber driver.
On the Uber website, they advertise that a driver can rent a Tesla from Hertz for 497$ a week, excluding what I am sure are many fees. Although the driver might get to feel like a wealthy person, that still fits the narrative of the desperate, cash-strapped Uber driver. Perhaps such a driver would expect to charge for the premium rate since they had a fancy car, and Hertz would be making bank off the person’s naïveté that they think they will be able to compensate for the rental and still make enough money on the side. I was reminded of those high school graduates who pretend to be big shots as they are delivered to their graduation in a limousine. Fifty dollars can rent the limo, and by sharing the cost, a few graduates can arrive as though they are celebrities for as low as eight dollars each. For an Uber driver’s hourly wage.
The other possibility is that the Uber driver is a Tesla owner, which means I would have re-examine everything I believed about Tesla ownership. I thought Tesla owners were rich. They either had enough disposable income that losing forty to a hundred thousand for a car was worth the cache of driving a Tesla, or people who were wealthy enough that they could buy whatever car was popular and not think about the cost at all. I find it hard to believe that either person would be driving their Tesla for Uber. The rich Tesla driver might have fallen on hard times, like in the American movies, but I could not imagine them humbling themselves enough to cater to another’s whims. That notion is further undermined when we remember that they could merely sell the Tesla and live from that money for as long as a year, depending on their spending habits.
There are a few other possibilities. The Tesla owner might occasionally lend their vehicle to a friend, and that friend decided to improve on the situation by earning some cash on the side. Or the spoiled child from a rich background decided to abscond with the family vehicle. Even as the parents glow with the impression that little Johnny will grow up to be rich, they are none the wiser about how he makes his pocket money. As well, the Tesla might be stolen, and like anyone else, the thief needs the extra cash to pay for rapid charging. In Winnipeg, they could scarcely get away with their car, for the chargers between Winnipeg, Calgary and Thunder Bay are famously scarce.
I will likely never know the answer to the Tesla Uber riddle, but I can at least confirm that I am missing vital information about either Teslas, their owners, renters, or the amount of money an Uber driver can expect to earn.