Eighteen months ago, Uber's self-driving car unit, Uber Advanced Technologies Group, was valued at $7.25 billion following a $1 billion investment from Toyota, DENSO and SoftBank's Vision Fund. Now, it's up for sale and a competing autonomous vehicle technology startup is in talks with Uber to buy it, according to three sources familiar with the deal. Aurora Innovation, the startup founded by three veterans of the autonomous vehicle industry who led programs at Google, Tesla and Uber, is in negotiations to buy Uber ATG. Terms of the deal are still unknown, but sources say the two companies have been in talks since October and it is far along in the process. An Uber spokesperson declined to comment, citing that the company's general policy is not to comment on these sorts of inquiries.
Uber has sold its loss-making flying taxi division, Elevate, to a Californian startup as it abandons costly side projects in an attempt to turn a profit next year. The sale to Joby Aviation, announced late on Tuesday, comes a day after Uber ditched ambitions to develop its own self-driving car and sold its autonomous vehicle division, Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), to the startup Aurora Innovation for $4bn (£3bn). Uber and Joby described the Elevate sale as an "expanded partnership". It will result in Uber investing an additional $75m (£56m) in Joby. Dara Khosrowshahi, Uber's chief executive, said: "Advanced air mobility has the potential to be exponentially positive for the environment and future generations. This deal allows us to deepen our partnership with Joby, the clear leader in this field, to accelerate the path to market for these technologies."
In 2015, then Uber CEO Travis Kalanick pulled off a bold talent raid when he poached some 40 roboticists from the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon. The move reportedly left the world-class engineering university reeling, and it seemed to signal that the world's hottest startup was on the cusp of making self-driving cars a reality. Now, that self-driving unit is no more, and the estimated timeline for robotaxi domination has extended well into this decade. Uber said Monday it would sell off the self-driving unit that was the result of that raid, the Pittsburgh-based Advanced Technologies Group. The 1,200-person unit will be acquired by the self-driving-tech developer Aurora.
As suspected, and following a similar deal yesterday to offload its self-driving taxi technology to autonomous vehicle startup Aurora, Uber announced Tuesday that it has sold its flying taxi service, Uber Elevate to California-based Joby Aviation. Joby already makes electric VTOL aircraft so it is acquiring Uber's aerial ride-hailing division. Doing so will allow the startup access to Uber's app infrastructure -- and vice versa, essentially integrating their respective ground and air apps -- once Joby's aircraft are FAA certified. That is expected to happen within the next few years and could be completed as soon as 2023. "We were proud to partner with Uber Elevate last year and we're even prouder to be welcoming them into the Joby team today," Joby Aviation founder and CEO JoeBen Bevirt said in a Tuesday release.
Uber is offloading as much as it can as the pandemic continues to decimate demand for ride-hailing. On Monday, self-driving technology company Aurora announced it was acquiring Uber's Advanced Technologies Group, or ATG, which houses its self-driving vehicle unit. As part of the deal, Uber is investing $400 million in Aurora, and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi will join the Aurora board. Now, Amazon-backed Aurora is valued at $10 billion. This hasn't been the only pandemic negotiation from Uber.