Mobility company, Uber Technologies, has announced today that it will partner with German automotive manufacturer, Daimler, to work on autonomous vehicles.
In a blog post, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick explained that Daimler would introduce and operate its vehicles on Uber’s ride-sharing network.
He explained that Uber has little interest in making their own autonomous vehicles and would rather leave that to more established players.
“Auto manufacturers like Daimler are crucial to our strategy because Uber has no experience making cars — and in fact, making cars is really hard,” Kalanick said.
“That’s why instead of building them ourselves, we want to partner with the best auto manufacturers in the world. We can combine Uber’s global ridesharing network with the world-class vehicles of companies like Daimler…”
Daimler, which owns several large automotive brands, including Mercedes-Benz, does not currently have a self-driving (or semi-autonomous) car on the market, however, is reportedly in the process of developing such a vehicle.
Mercedes has had its Active Lane Keeping Assist function (see video at bottom) available for the last few years. The system can warn the driver when they unintentionally leave their lane and can use one-sided braking intervention to help manoeuvre the vehicle back into its lane (including in the case of broken lane markings if there is a risk of collision).
Nonetheless, the company is far behind the likes of Tesla and Volkswagen and it will be a significant amount of time before it is able to supply Uber with any significant number of vehicles for use in its transport network.
Kalanick himself was reluctant to set a date in the announcement for when Daimler would have the vehicles ready – only going so far as to say it would happen “in the coming years”.
As well, no information is currently available on how many Daimler cars Uber will be using within its network under the deal, and indeed whether it will license the cars, or if the company has pledged to buy them outright.
Despite this, getting its hands on a large number of autonomous vehicles will be critical for Uber in the coming years.
Recent leaks have shown that the company is hemorrhaging cash at a fast rate, and is effectively subsidizing half the cost of each journey a user takes.
Unless Uber massively hikes its prices, it will need to cut costs, and the easiest way for it to do this is to eliminate the need to pay its drivers through the use of self-driving cars.