RIDE-HAILING company Uber has sold its self-driving car business to a small Silicon Valley rival, after a number of tempestuous years attempting to get it off the ground.
The autonomous vehicle branch of Uber was acquired by Aurora Innovation, a start-up founded by three people involved in the technology within electric car maker Tesla, tech giant Google and Uber itself.
Although this marks the end of Uber’s own self-driving vehicle project, it is not washing its hands of the concept; according to The Times, Uber will take a 26% stake in Aurora and plans to invest $400m (£299m) in the Silcon Valley firm as part of the deal, joining other high-profile backers including Amazon and venture capital firm Sequoia. Partners of the San Francisco-based company will take a further 14%, and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will sit on Aurora’s board.
The deal estimates the value of Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) at $4bn (£2.99bn), which is far lower than the $7.25bn (£5.23bn) valuation cited by Uber in April last year, just before the company went public.
Uber’s troubled autonomous car history
Founded in 2016 and often classed as one of the most ambitious and high-profile attempts to create a viable self-driving car, the gestation of ATG’s programme has been marred by a series of incidents including the death of a pedestrian in 2018. The company has since been cleared of any criminal liability but the reputation of Uber’s self-driving technology has arguably not recovered.
Further scandal clouded the company when an employee was given a prison sentence for stealing technology from Google, which founded its own autonomous car company, Waymo, in 2009.
The offloading of Uber’s self-driving arm is reportedly part of its efforts to turn into a profitable company by the end of 2021, although Khosrowshahi said that Uber’s profitability was not the main motivating factor in the deal. The huge investment put into the self-driving branch of the business has been seen as a large drain on its cash and resources.
Under the leadership of Khosrowshahi, Uber has honed its focus on its two core businesses: the eponymous car-booking app and Uber Eats, its food delivery service. In June, it offloaded Jump — an electric bike service available in London — to Lime, and is reportedly considering selling Elevate, its flying taxi project.
Aurora will focus initially on producing self-driving trucks, cars and delivery vehicles, Reuters reported, which could be used for both of Uber’s core services.
In a statement, Khosrowshahi said: “Few technologies hold as much promise to improve people’s lives with safe, accessible, and environmentally friendly transportation as self-driving vehicles.
“For the last five years, our phenomenal team at ATG has been at the forefront of this effort — and in joining forces with Aurora, they are now in pole position to deliver on that promise even faster.”
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