And so it goes back to the lesson of the jitney.
If by 1915 this thing was taking off, imagine without the regulations that happened, if that thing could just keep going. How would our cities be different today? Would we have parks in the place of parking lots? Well, we lost that chance. But technology has given us another opportunity. Now, I'm as excited as anybody else about self-driving cars but do we have to really wait five, 10 or even 20 years to make our new cities a reality?
With the technology in our pockets today, and a little smart regulation, we can turn every car into a shared car, and we can reclaim our cities starting today. Thank you.
Chris Anderson: Travis, thank you.
Travis Kalanick: Thank you.
CA: You know -- I mean the company you've built is absolutely astounding.
You only just talked about a small part of it here -- a powerful part -- the idea of turning cars into public transport like that, it's cool. But I've got a couple other questions because I know they're out there on people's minds. So first of all, last week I think it was, I switched on my phone and tried to book an Uber and I couldn't find the app.
You had this very radical, very bold, brave redesign. TK: Sure.
CA: How did it go?
Did you notice other people not finding the app that day? Are you going to win people over for this redesign? TK: Well, first I should probably just say, well, what we were trying to accomplish.
And I think if you know a little bit about our history, it makes a lot more sense. Which is, when we first got started, it was just black cars. It was literally you push a button and get an S-Class. And so what we did was almost what I would call an immature version of a luxury brand that looked like a badge on a luxury car. And as we've gone worldwide and gone from S-Classes to auto rickshaws in India, it became something that was important for us to be more accessible, to be more hyperlocal, to be about the cities we were in and that's what you see with the patterns and colors.
And to be more iconic, because a U doesn't mean anything in Sanskrit, and a U doesn't mean anything in Mandarin. And so that was a little bit what it was about. Now, when you first roll out something like that, I mean, your hands are sweating, you've got -- you know, you're a little worried.
What we saw is a lot of people -- actually, at the beginning, we saw a lot more people opening the app because they were curious what they would find when they opened it. And our numbers were slightly up from what we expected. CA: OK, that's cool.
Now, so you, yourself, are something of an enigma, I would say.
Your supporters and investors, who have been with you the whole way, believe that the only chance of sort of taking on the powerful, entrenched interests of taxi industry and so forth, is to have someone who is a fierce, relentless competitor, which you've certainly proved to be. Some people feel you've almost taken that culture too far, and you know -- like a year or two ago there was a huge controversy where a lot of women got upset.
How did it feel like inside the company during that period? Did you notice a loss of business? Did you learn anything from that? TK: Well, look, I think -- I've been an entrepreneur since I've been in high school and you have -- In various different ways an entrepreneur will see hard times and for us, it was about a year and a half ago, and for us it was hard times, too.
Now, inside, we felt like -- I guess at the end of the day we felt like we were good people doing good work, but on the outside that wasn't evident.
And so there was a lot that we had to do to sort of -- We'd gone from a very small company -- I mean if you go literally two and a half years ago, our company was 400 people, and today it's 6,500. And so when you go through that growth, you have to sort of cement your cultural values and talk about them all of the time. And make sure that people are constantly checking to say, "Are we good people doing good work?" And if you check those boxes, the next part of that is making sure you're telling your story. And I think we learned a lot of lessons but I think at the end of it we came out stronger. But it was certainly a difficult period. CA: It seems to me, everywhere you turn, you're facing people who occasionally give you a hard time.
Some Uber drivers in New York and elsewhere are mad as hell now because you changed the fees and they can barely -- they claim -- barely afford the deal anymore. How -- You know, you said that you started this originally -- just the coolness of pressing a button and summoning a ride.
This thing's taken off, you're affecting the whole global economy, basically, at this point. You're being forced to be, whether you want it or not, a kind of global visionary who's changing the world. I mean -- who are you? Do you want that? Are you ready to go with that and be what that takes? TK: Well, there's a few things packed in that question, so --
First is on the pricing side -- I mean, keep in mind, right?
UberX, when we first started, was literally 10 or 15 percent cheaper than our black car product. It's now in many cities, half the price of a taxi. And we have all the data to show that the divers are making more per hour than they would as taxi drivers. What happens is when the price goes down, people are more likely to take Uber at different times of the day than they otherwise would have, and they're more likely to use it in places they wouldn't have before.
And what that means for a driver is wherever he or she drops somebody off, they're much more likely to get a pickup and get back in. And so what that means is more trips per hour, more minutes of the hour where they're productive and actually, earnings come up. And we have cities where we've done literally five or six price cuts and have seen those price cuts go up over time.
So even in New York -- We have a blog post we call "4 Septembers" -- compare the earnings September after September after September. Same month every year. And we see the earnings going up over time as the price comes down. And there's a perfect price point -- you can't go down forever. And in those places where we bring the price down but we don't see those earnings pop, we bring the prices back up. So that addresses that first part.
And then the enigma and all of this -- I mean, the kind of entrepreneur I am is one that gets really excited about solving hard problems. And the way I like to describe it is it's kind of like a math professor. You know? If a math professor doesn't have hard problems to solve, that's a really sad math professor. And so at Uber we like the hard problems and we like getting excited about those and solving them. But we don't want just any math problem, we want the hardest ones that we can possibly find, and we want the one that if you solve it, there's a little bit of a wow factor. CA: In a couple years' time -- say five years' time, I don't know when -- you roll out your incredible self-driving cars, at probably a lower cost than you currently pay for an Uber ride.
What do you say to your army of a million drivers plus at that time? TK: Explain that again -- at which time?
CA: At the time when self-driving cars are coming --
TK: Sure, sure, sure.
Sorry, I missed that. CA: What do you say to a driver?
TK: Well, look, I think the first part is it's going to take -- it's likely going to take a lot longer than I think some of the hype or media might expect. That's part one. Part two is it's going to also take -- there's going to be a long transition.
These cars will work in certain places and not in others. For us it's an interesting challenge, right?
Because, well -- Google's been investing in this since 2007, Tesla's going to be doing it, Apple's going to be doing it, the manufacturers are going to be doing it. This is a world that's going to exist, and for good reason. A million people die a year in cars. And we already looked at the billions or even trillions of hours worldwide that people are spending sitting in them, driving frustrated, anxious. And think about the quality of life that improves when you give people their time back and it's not so anxiety-ridden. So I think there's a lot of good. And so the way we think about it is that it's a challenge, but one for optimistic leadership, Where instead of resisting -- resisting technology, maybe like the taxi industry, or the trolley industry -- we have to embrace it or be a part of the future.
But how do we optimistically lead through it?
Are there ways to partner with cities? Are there ways to have education systems, vocational training, etc., for that transition period. It will take a lot longer than I think we all expect, especially that transition period. But it is a world that's going to exist, and it is going to be a better world. CA: Travis, what you're building is absolutely incredible and I'm hugely grateful to you for coming to TED and sharing so openly.
Thank you so much.
TK: Thank you very much. (Applause)