Back in 2016, Uber predicted it would have 75,000 self-driving cars on the streets by now. Obviously, things didn’t turn out as Uber executives expected.
In fact, recent reports confirm the ride-sharing giant recently moved its 1,000-plus autonomous vehicle team to the software start-up Aurora. In addition to transferring its self-driving group, Uber paid Aurora $400 million for a 26 percent stake in the company.
Even with significant backing from Toyota and SoftBank, Uber lost considerable money on its self-driving project. Indeed, recent financial filings suggest Uber lost at least $300 million from its autonomous venture in 2020.
Shortly after Uber entered the self-driving space, it faced a serious legal challenge from Google. According to Google, Uber stole sensitive tech info when it bought the company Otto. This dispute cost Uber $245 million in an out-of-court settlement.
Uber’s self-driving division also faced extreme backlash after a car crash in Arizona. In 2018, one of Uber’s autonomous vehicles fatally struck a woman in Tempe. After reviewing this crash, the National Transportation Safety Board found that Uber didn’t have a thorough safety infrastructure in place. A court also found the driver involved in this crash was negligent.
Both of these scandals seriously tarnished Uber’s self-driving project. Many shareholders expressed concerns over Uber’s reckless spending, especially considering its core business has yet to turn a profit.
Even though Uber no longer has a self-driving division, it will remain closely involved with Aurora’s team. So, if Aurora were to develop a viable self-driving software, it’s likely Uber would test it. At this point, however, Uber seems more interested in offloading unprofitable R&D ventures to strengthen its ride-hailing business.