The rise of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft has marked a turning point in the gig economy. Although the gig economy had been in existence for years, it was the mainstreaming of gigs that led to their disruption. The use of AI and technology by ride-hailing companies to connect random drivers with riders via their app marked the first publicized foray of AI into the industry, and it quickly became the norm. However, as people began working for these companies full-time, they began demanding full-time benefits and recognition as employees rather than independent contractors. This has led to ongoing battles between ride-hailing companies and their drivers.
According to autonomous vehicle investor Jiang Yu, this battle underlines the problems at the heart of the gig-economy with the infiltration of AI. As companies continue to utilize gig workers, they continue to exploit them because of their “invisibility,” temporariness, and perceived inability to unionize. However, there is hope on the horizon. Firdosh Sheikh, founder of DRIFE, a ride-hailing company that focuses on delivering a more equal and ethical ride-hailing experience, believes that technology can deliver equity when used with empathy. Her platform democratizes the ride-sharing industry, allowing drivers to take home 100% of their income in exchange for a small subscription fee.
AI has also begun to revolutionize the way gig workers are matched with employers. Platforms have begun utilizing data to help both gig workers and employers find exactly what they need. AI’s ability to analyze and interpret data makes it extremely effective in finding good matches for gig workers and companies. This, in turn, creates more equity and fairness in working conditions.
Moreover, AI is filling the education vacuum for gig workers. As AI changes the very nature of certain tasks, many of the people who performed these tasks are no longer qualified to perform their more tech-savvy replacements. However, AI is making it easier for them to gain the necessary skills and qualifications to compete in today’s workforce.
The gig economy has undergone significant changes in recent years, but the rise of AI presents both challenges and opportunities for gig workers. With more humane, equity-minded applications of these technologies, the gig economy will become fairer and more reliable for workers.