Uber ditches effort to develop own self-driving car

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Uber ditches effort to develop own self-driving car

December 8, 2020 Syndicated 0

Uber has ditched efforts to develop its own self-driving car with the multibillion-dollar sale of its driverless car division to a Silicon Valley startup.

The ride-hailing company is selling the business, known as Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), for a reported $4bn (£3bn) to Aurora, a start-up that makes sensors and software for autonomous vehicles and is backed by Amazon and Sequoia Capital.

As part of the deal, Uber is investing $400m in Aurora in return for a minority stake of 26%. Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, will join Aurora’s board. The deal will also give Aurora access to a carmaker, Japan’s Toyota, which has invested in ATG. ATG has grown to a venture with 1,200 employees.

Uber said it would collaborate with Aurora in bringing driverless cars to its network in the coming years.

“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,” said Khosrowshahi.

“I’m looking forward to working with [Aurora chief executive] Chris [Urmson], and to bringing the Aurora Driver to the Uber network in the years ahead.”

Developing autonomous technology has been Uber’s big ambition since its then chief executive Travis Kalanick launched the driverless car division in Pittsburgh in 2015, in a mission to drive down costs.

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At the time, Uber was ahead of rivals such as Google and Tesla in the race to develop “robotaxis”. But it suffered a serious setback when an autonomous Uber car killed a woman who was crossing the street in Arizona in 2018, and was also caught up in legal battles as Google’s self-driving car project Waymo sued Uber for alleged technology theft.

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Under Khosrowshahi, Uber has expanded in areas such as food delivery. The company, which went public in 2019, has come under pressure from investors to focus on becoming profitable.

Aurora was founded in 2017 by Urmson, an early pioneer of what became the self-driving taxi firm Waymo; Sterling Anderson, the chief product officer, who previously worked at Tesla; and Drew Bagnell, the chief technology officer, who was a founding member of Uber’s self-driving division.

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