Uber has announced that it is selling its autonomous vehicle unit, although it is not completely reducing its interest in autonomous vehicles.
The company will sell its autonomous vehicle unit, Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), to Aurora, a Silicon Valley-based company founded in 2017 by former collaborators of autonomous vehicle projects operated by Google (now Waymo) and Uber.
As part of the deal, Uber will invest $ 400 million in Aurora, and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will join Aurora’s board of directors.
The move ends Uber’s sometimes highly controversial autonomous vehicle program that launched in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 2016 with modified Ford Fusion cars.
The issue included a messy court battle in which a leading player in Uber’s autonomous driving efforts was accused of stealing Google trade secrets, before it was rebranded as Waymo. In August 2020, Anthony Levandowski pleaded guilty to one count of trade secret theft and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
But Uber’s lowest point came in March 2018 when one of its autonomous test vehicles struck and killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. Elaine Herzberg, 49, was beaten while crossing a street at night. It was later confirmed that the safety driver had not been monitoring the road at the time of the fatal accident and that the Uber vehicle had inadequate safety measures to deal with reckless pedestrians. Uber was quickly banned from testing its autonomous vehicles while an investigation was under way, and testing resumed nine months later under much stricter driving conditions.
This week’s announcement from Uber to end its interest in autonomous vehicles follows a similar move earlier this year when it sold its Jump e-scooter and e-bike business to Lime. Reports last week also suggested that it might be on the verge of ditching its flying taxi unit, called Elevate, as the company once again focuses on its core rideshare and meal delivery businesses in an attempt to become profitable.
However, your investment in Aurora means that you have not given up on your dream of one day operating a rideshare service using autonomous vehicles.
Commenting on the acquisition, Chris Urmson, co-founder and CEO of Aurora, said: “By adding the people and technology from Uber’s ATG to the incredible group we’ve already assembled in Aurora, we are changing the landscape of the automated space vehicle. With the addition of ATG, Aurora will have an incredibly strong team and technology, a clear path to multiple markets, and the resources to deliver. “
Uber boss Dara Khosrowshahi said: “Few technologies promise as much to improve people’s lives with safe, accessible and eco-friendly transportation as autonomous vehicles.”
He added: “For the past five years, our phenomenal team at ATG has been at the forefront of this effort, and by joining forces with Aurora, they are now in pole position to deliver on that promise even faster.”