According to three sources close to the file cited by TechCrunch, Uber is in advanced discussions with the young growth Aurora to sell its division dedicated to autonomous driving, the Uber Advanced Technologies Group.
Now is the time for big changes at Uber. The Californian multinational has made some organizational upheavals in recent months, notably materialized by the sale of several activities: Uber Freight in Europe was taken over by the German start-up Sennder last September, preceded a few months earlier by the absorption of Jump (self-service electric bikes) by Lime.
This time, the American group would seek to sell a very important branch, the Advanced Technologies Group (ATG). This subsidiary, 86% owned by Uber, has been working on autonomous driving technologies since 2015. A half year ago, its financial value reached 7.5 billion dollars after a new round of investment successfully completed, recalls TechCrunch.
And still according to the aforementioned media, which quotes three sources familiar with the matter, Uber has been in talks since October with the young shoot Aurora, founded in 2017 by three former employees … of Uber, Google and Tesla. This thriving company has since exploded in the wake of lucrative fundraisers – Amazon is involved – and now has around 600 employees. A figure that could triple.
A branch that has become expensive
Aurora is concentrating its efforts on autonomous driving systems which could in the future equip delivery vehicles, but also robotaxis. At one time, Volkswagen was one of its privileged partners, before the giant from beyond the Rhine changed its tune by setting its sights on the competition of the moment, Argo.
If an agreement was successful – discussions would be at an advanced stage – Uber would get rid of an expensive and controversial branch here. Always after TechCrunch, which cites a report from Uber, this division (alongside Uber Elevate) would have recorded net losses of $ 303 million between January and September 2020. This does not bode well for the future.
Polemics and controversies
It was also impossible to hide the fatal accident of 2018: an autonomous vehicle from Uber had struck a woman, who subsequently died. The system had detected it, but decided to ignore it. This tragic episode prompted the company to stop its tests, before resuming them in the city of Pittsburgh, where the headquarters of Uber ATG sits. Not to mention the lawsuit filed by Waymo (Google) for theft of trade secrets, which ended in an amicable settlement in 2018.
It is clear that Uber is making an obvious change in strategy within its structure, and that a “historic” player with a significant role in autonomous driving could disappear. But one question remains: does Aurora have the financial shoulders to take on such an acquisition? An external investment or an agreement arranged with Uber could be considered to achieve its ends.