Car Industry

Investors tell Uber to ditch self-driving car program, report says

The Information claims Uber is currently spending up to $200 million per quarter on its AV development.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Uber has been trying its best to develop its own self-driving vehicle platform, in the hopes that it can do away with all those pesky human drivers and their foolish needs like living wages and insurance. And while it's made some progress, some investors allegedly think the company is better off throwing in the towel.

Some investors have suggested to Uber that it should sell off its AV development program, The Information reports, citing a source familiar with the matter. An Uber spokesperson declined to comment on the report.

The Information reports that Uber has spent between $125 million and $200 million per quarter on its AV development over the last 18 months, totaling "at least" $2 billion since the program's inception. Uber does not separate its AV-related finances in its quarterly earnings reports, but The Information claims that the losses from its self-driving unit comprise between 15 and 30 percent of Uber's quarterly losses.

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It's unclear how long Uber needs before its AV platform is fully baked.

James Martin/CNET

In that sense, it's not hard to see why some investors might be concerned. Uber is not currently pulling a profit, and this side of its business is not helping matters. The company has not yet produced a viably profitable autonomous-vehicle platform. It's not building an entire car from scratch, but rather a platform of software and hardware that would enable autonomy on traditional vehicles, which it could possibly then sell to other firms hoping to avoid the time and money sinks of full-on development. Uber has relied largely on Volvo XC90s during its development thus far.

Instead, there have been a series of setbacks, most notably a fatal collision with a jaywalker in Arizona. It was determined that neither Uber nor Volvo's autobrake systems were engaged at the time, and the system did not alert the driver to press the brakes in time to avoid the collision. It was also reported that the Volvo XC90's safety driver was streaming Hulu to her phone shortly before the crash.

Yet, Uber is still moving forward, albeit perhaps not at the pace of its biggest rivals, including Alphabet's Waymo. After a brief shutdown of all AV-related testing, Uber shuttered its Arizona operations, choosing to focus its future efforts in Pennsylvania instead.

Uber has tried to seek self-driving partnerships in the past, having talked to both Waymo and GM's Cruise Automation about using their tech within the Uber network. The Information reports that some executives believe Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi would not be against selling off its self-driving unit, but not without Uber getting something out of it. One example suggested that whomever Uber sells its self-driving unit to could then promise to operate those vehicles within Uber's network at a later time.