Uber has decided to sell its self-driving business to an autonomous vehicle startup in a complex deal. Aurora Innovation is not paying any cash for Uber Advanced Technology Group. Uber ATG currently values over USD 7 billion. Companies like Toyota, Vision Fund, and DENSO had invested USD 1 billion in it last year. This is a big development considering the fact that Uber had a few years ago announced that an autonomous vehicle research unit is key to its long term profitability. But this does not mean that the ride-hailing service provider has given up its promise of an autonomous vehicle. Uber will still be investing USD 400 million in Aurora.
Moreover, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will also be one of the startup’s board of directors. Aurora Innovations is founded by the former head engineer of Google’s self-driving car project. The deal puts an end to Uber’s dream of having autonomous driving vehicles in place of human-powered taxis. The deal also brings uncertainty over the job security of the employees as it is yet not clear whether Aurora will retain all of them or not. The deal may result in layoffs but an Uber spokesperson said that Aurora has committed to offering jobs to the majority of Uber ATG employees. “We are working out a plan with the officials of Aurora and will soon notify our teams,” the spokesperson added.
Uber was confident that spending millions of dollars on the ambitious dream will help it replace the fleet of human-powered taxis. Drivers are the main cost factor of the company and Uber was investing in this technology to eliminate this expense. Uber was working on it with the aim of taking over the world of transportation and provide cheaper options to its customers. But the company faced many obstacles and was even accused of stealing trade secrets of Google offshoot Waymo. Both companies reached a settlement but Anthony Levandowski, a former engineer of Uber, was recently sentenced to a jail term of 18 months for the crime. More troubling than that was an accident in 2018. A woman lost her life after being struck by an autonomous Uber vehicle. Her death was the first known fatality by a self-driving vehicle.