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.
Aurora Innovation Inc., a Silicon Valley-based autonomous-driving startup with at least a $10 billion valuation, has agreed to a long-term strategic partnership with Toyota Motor Corp. and its supplier Denso Corp. that aims to mass produce autonomous vehicles and launch them on ride-hailing networks, including Uber's, over the next few years. The first model that will be equipped with the Aurora Driver, the company's hardware, software and sensor suite, is the Toyota Sienna minivan, with testing of an initial fleet to begin this year. Toyota, which overtook Volkswagen AG as the world's top-selling automaker in 2020, is also an investor in Uber Technologies Inc. and has a formidable brand that has long been associated with high volume manufacturing and safety. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Toyota will gain an observer seat on Aurora's board. "This is a really exciting set of developments," said Sterling Anderson, Aurora's Chief Product Officer, in an interview.
Uber has offloaded its air taxi enterprise Elevate to Joby Aviation, the last of several moonshots to be sold by the ride-hailing company in a pursuit to stick to its core business and reach profitability. The transaction announced Tuesday is part of a complex deal that includes Uber investing $75 million into Joby and an expanded partnership between the two companies. Last year, Uber and Joby, which is developing an all-electric, vertical take-off and landing passenger aircraft, signed on as a vehicle partner for Uber's Elevate initiative. Joby was the first partner to commit to deploying air taxi services by 2023. The $75 million investment comes in addition to a previously undisclosed $50 million investment made as part of Joby's Series C financing round in January 2020, Uber said.
Uber is selling its self-driving car unit, reflecting the culmination of a rocky tenure marked by ambitions of revolutionary technology, accusations of stolen trade secrets, a deadly accident and government scrutiny. The ride-hailing app has negotiated a deal to sell its Advanced Technologies Group to self-driving car start-up Aurora, which is headed by Chris Urmson, the former leader of Google's autonomous vehicle efforts. The move doesn't mean Uber is abandoning self-driving cars. The company is investing $400 million in Amazon-backed Aurora and is forming a technology partnership with Uber, while Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is joining the start-up's board. The deal reflects an admission by Uber that its once-ambitious self-driving car division had faltered, burning cash and failing to achieve its goal of revolutionizing transportation and boosting profits by removing the need for a human driver.
Uber has ditched efforts to develop its own self-driving car with the multibillion-dollar sale of its driverless car division to a Silicon Valley startup. The ride-hailing company is selling the business, known as Advanced Technologies Group (ATG), for a reported $4bn (£3bn) to Aurora, a start-up that makes sensors and software for autonomous vehicles and is backed by Amazon and Sequoia Capital. As part of the deal, Uber is investing $400m in the venture, which employs 1,200 people, in return for a minority stake of 26%, and its chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi will join Aurora's board. The deal will also give Aurora access to a carmaker, Japan's Toyota, which has invested in ATG. Uber said it would collaborate with Aurora in bringing driverless cars to its network in the coming years.