Some Uber investors are eyeing a self-driving exit and have already suggested that course of action to the company amid revelations about the startup's mounting losses which are largely attributable to the troubled unit, The Information reports, citing sources close to the firm. Over the last 18 months, the autonomous driving division of Uber's Advanced Technologies Group is said to have lost between $125 million and $200 million per quarter, hence being responsible for up to 30-percent of the company's deficit in the same period.
Concerns about Uber's massive self-driving bet have been circulating the Silicon Valley for some time now and ended up intensifying after the division tragically made history when one of its Volvo XC90 SUVs ended up becoming history's first autonomous vehicle to kill a pedestrian earlier this year. A preliminary investigation and media reports suggested the March accident recorded in Tempe, Arizona, was largely caused by an overly aggressively configured algorithm for ignoring false positives, with allegations of Uber cutting costs on self-driving simulations and hence endangering public safety also arising. The startup's recent decision to shutter its autonomous trucking division and the self-driving tests in Arizona were directly prompted by the mounting losses of the business that's still years away from delivering commercial-grade solutions on any significant scale, as per the same report.
Over the year-long period ending March 31, Uber lost approximately $3 billion, according to the company's own estimates. With CEO Dara Khosrowshahi still pushing for an initial public offering in 2019, the investor pressure for the firm's finances to be tidied up is likely to increase so that the chances of a stock market disaster are minimized. Even if Uber was to attempt divesting the self-driving unit, the value of the technology it developed so far is unclear, though its solutions have already been widely reported as being vastly inferior to those of Google spinoff Waymo. While autonomous driving is part of Uber's endgame of revolutionizing the concept of mobility, it doesn't necessarily need to do so with proprietary driverless cars that would allow it to cut costs on drivers. While self-driving partnerships would lower its savings potential, they're another avenue that its investors may be willing to explore in order to cut near-term losses and delay making additional investments in the technology until it's much more mature.