This month appears to be a good one for mega business deals. Uber is abandoning their long-time dream of dominating their market with driverless cars. After years of struggle and a messy legal process, the car-sharing giant is selling its ATM subsidiary to Aurora, a startup founded in 2017. Uber will invest $400m in Aurora that is currently Amazon-backed. Moreover, Uber’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi will be on Aurora’s board of directors after the two companies close the deal.
Uber’s Long-Standing Troubles
The deal does not come as a surprise. Uber did connect the future of their company by introducing self-driving cars at one point. However, the fatal Arizona accident in 2018, combined with the financial struggle, and inability to reach their goal, the ATM subsidiary of Uber has been in trouble for more than two years no.
ATG was established back in 2015 and at that point, Travis Kalanick, the former CEO of the subsidiary has estimated that the driverless Uber will be on the road by 2018.
Initial Positive Reviews
Initially, when Uber launched the first test vehicles in 2016, they received positive reviews. The vehicles were not yet completely autonomous. However, they were able to manage some maneuvers on their own while a backup driver could control everything from insider the vehicle.
The excitement dramatically ended in March 2018, when a 49-year old Arizona citizen, Elaine Herzberg, was killed by one of the Uber test vehicles while walking her bike on the side of the road in Tampa.
Aftermath Of The Accident
Although the National Transportation Safety Board has concluded that it was mostly the fault of the driver, they have also pointed out that Uber did not program their cars to predict the movement of jaywalkers. The company also made a controversial decision to turn off the standard emergency brakes on the test car, contributing to the NTSB’s critique.
Rumors About UBER Abandoning Their Efforts
Ever since the tragic accident, there has been speculation that Uber will abandon their effort. Having said that, up until 2018, the company already spent billions of dollars on the Advanced Technology Group and the hope that their biggest cost – the drivers – will be able to be replaced by self-driving cars. Thus, selling the company was not easy. Now, the deal with Aurora allows a fresh set of eyes to continue the endeavor that Uber started.
The CEO of Aurora, Chris Urmson, has told Forbes, “There are not going to be a whole lot of players who actually make it across the finish line” in the race to commercialize autonomous driving, we’re excited about this deal because it accelerates us and creates the space and the pathway for us to be one of those winners.”
Will UBER remain in the driverless car industry?
Although UBER is selling the Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) subsidiary that is responsible for the self-driving vehicles, it plans to remain in the sector and collaborate with Aurora by eventually launching the driverless cars on their platform.
Khosrowshahi said, “For the last five years, our phenomenal team … 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.”, as reported by BBC
What will happen with the current ATG employees?
Whether an unfortunate consequence of the deal will be layoffs for the ATG employees is yet to be seen. An UBER spokesperson said that the details between two companies are now being finalized. So far, we know that Aurora has committed to offering positions to the majority of ATG employees
What experience does Aurora have with self-driving cars?
Aurora was co-founded by Chris Urmson who previously served as the head of Google’s self-driving car project. Two other men in charge are Sterling Anderson, a veteran of Tesla, and Drew Bagnell who used to work for no other company than the ARG themselves.
Will Uber have any ownership stake in Aurora?
Yes. Due to the massive $400 million investment that Uber will make in Aurora, they will have a 26% ownership stake in the company. That number does not include the 14% stakes that the employees and investors of ATG will hold in Aurora. Thus, the total number reaches 40%.
How much will Aurora be worth after the deal closes?
After the deal with Uber, Aurora will be worth $10 billion, according to Forbes.