Uber might sell off its self-driving car division following past controversies


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In context: Uber is a highly controversial figure in the self-driving car industry. In 2018, one of the company's self-driving vehicles was involved in a fatal collision with a pedestrian. Though Uber was ultimately not found at fault in the matter (its safety driver was), the incident still cast a long shadow over the company's autonomous car ambitions.

Even two years later, it seems that shadow is becoming too much for Uber to bear. A new report from TechCrunch claims that the company is "in talks" to sell its Advanced Technologies Group to one of its rivals, Aurora Innovation.

Obviously, there are other reasons Uber might be looking to sell ATG, but it's hard to believe that its past controversies aren't a strong factor there. It's difficult for any company to regain the public's trust after lethal incidents, and trust is exactly what a self-driving car company needs to thrive.

As a side benefit, selling off ATG would allow Uber to trim down expenses and refocus its operations on what it does best: offering freelance ride-sharing and product delivery services to customers across the US.

Aurora is not as well-known a company as, say, Waymo or Tesla (two other major players in the self-driving car industry), but it clearly has enough capital to catch Uber's eye here.

If some sort of agreement is reached between Aurora and Uber, we're not sure how much it'd be worth. TechCrunch says ATG was valued at $7.25 billion well over a year ago, but we wouldn't be surprised if that number has shrunk over time due to Covid-19 difficulties and ATG's relative lack of progress compared to some of its competitors.

At any rate, if this deal goes through, we'll certainly let you know. Until then, feel free to treat this news as a rumor.

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This probably has nothing to do with the accident, and everything to do with finances and the state of the technology.

Ultimately, we are still a couple decades away from 100% driverless (in all situations) cars. The problem is just too complex. Yes, you can get them to work on well maintained roads during nice weather. Its a completely different story once that blizzard hits, or you come across the poorly maintained section of road. So from that perspective, Uber is cutting their losses.

The other thing to consider is: what was Uber's plan if they did succeed? Build their own cars? No. License the tech to someone else? This assumes no one else figures out how to do it first. Sell the tech to an established automaker? This assumes they come up with some unique and particularly effective solution to one of the many problems self-driving cars face.

No, Uber will be leasing self-driving cars once they come out, and nothing more. It made no sense for them to be directly researching them in the first place. This is just Uber's management waking up and realizing that it was a drain on their financials, with almost no chance for a potential return on their investment.