Uber Says its Driverless Cars May be on the Road in Less Than a Year

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【Summary】Uber, the world’s largest ride-hailing company, says it driverless cars may be on the road in less than a year as the company is working with major automakers on autonomous technology.

Eric Walz    Feb 23, 2018 10:32 AM PT
Uber Says its Driverless Cars May be on the Road in Less Than a Year

Uber, the world's largest ride-hailing company says it driverless cars may be on the road in less than a year as the company is working with major automakers on autonomous technology.

On his first trip to India, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said the company is collaborating with Japanese auto giant Toyota Motor Corp on self-driving technology.

"In less than a year, autonomous vehicles will be on the road in out network", he said. "Much sooner than you would expect."

Uber is also betting that India will be a leading tech center in the next decade.

In a fireside chat at engineering institution IIT-Delhi, Khosrowshahi said he wants to make a big bet in India on technology and hinted that India could become the company's next big tech center.

"I want to make a bit bet in India. I think the talent pool here is extraordinary. I think the work ethic here is terrific. I think the people here are hungry to succeed. I love the entrepreneurial energy in India. So I want India to be our second tech center. San Francisco is the headquarters but India is going to be a very big tech center, and who knows maybe 10 years from now India will be our first tech center, we will see," he said.

Uber currently provides ride-hailing services in 29 cities in India, and is looking for increasing automation to ensure every ride is a perfect experience. "Right now we get too many calls, using automation and smart data will reduce those errors and is going to reduce our cost, increase our profits and help us grow expenses much more slowly than revenue," he said. "So business is scaling. I think we are on a very good path. We just need to keep it there."

Khosrowshahi said India's potential is enormous. "The technical talent is terrific and when we look at Uber I absolutely want to make a very significant investment in increasing our technical talent locally here." Also, the Indian market is a very demanding market in terms of demanding great service levels at very affordable levels. "And a company that can make their product work in India can make their product work all over the world," he said. On hiring plans, Khosrowshahi said Uber will hire "multiples" from where it is now.

Uber as an Alternative to Car Ownership

Speaking on Japan's SoftBank being the largest investor in Uber and also being one of the investors of its rival Ola, he said SoftBank, a "big picture investor", believed that ride-sharing space is set for growth. "SoftBank is not thinking of Ola versus Uber, SoftBank is thinking about Ola and Uber versus car ownership, and I think that is pretty darn good bet," he said. Ola, India's most popular mobile app for transportation.

The Uber CEO further said that business scale-up combined with the advent of new technologies will make services such as Uber rival and become a "true alternative" to car ownership.

"People 10-15 years from now...they are not going to buy their own cars. Cars are a huge waste of an asset," he said, pointing out that on a global basis cars were used just four percent of the time, while 96 percent of the time they were just "sitting around".

"When the cost of our services get closer to car ownership, and I think it is going to be in 5-10 years, we are not talking about a business that is going to grow 50 percent, we are talking about a business that is going to grow 10-30X," he added.

Khosrowshahi also said that the company is "on track" for an IPO in 2019, and added that market dynamics and system execution will be amongst the key criteria for the public offer. "Everything that I see in terms of the growth of the company, profit potential, innovation and new product we are investing in... the business part of the company is right on track for the IPO," he said.

Asserting that Uber, which is investing "quite aggressively" will not sacrifice growth and innovation, Khosrowshahi said that the company will be careful not to turn to profits too quickly.

The "Amazon" of Mobility

"We are competing in transportation space. This is a five trillion dollar marketplace that we are going after and we account for less than one percent of that market. So, you will find me investing as much as I can humanly get away with, and still go public," Khosrowshahi said. Very few companies of Uber's size were still growing revenue at over 100 percent, he added.

Khosrowshahi said that he is inspired by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. "He is an incredible leader... A founder who can scale the way he has scaled and can succeed in different products he has built is worthy of great admiration."

"If we could be the Amazon of mobility, we will have a win on our hands," he added.

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