Uber In Talks To Sell Self-Driving Unit; Report


Photo credit: Uber


Ride-hailing company Uber is in talks to sell its Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) self-driving unit to another self-driving company, Aurora Innovation, according to a report from TechCrunch that cites "three sources familiar with the deal". Such a deal would be remarkable given that Aurora was founded by a team that includes someone who previously worked at Uber and was a founding member of the self-driving unit of concern here.

Uber's self-driving unit has burned through cash for years but has no major revenue pipeline to back it up. The unit was founded with hopes of rolling out a robotaxi service that'll bring in significant revenue for Uber without the need for human drivers, a hope that now hasn't come close to fruition. Uber's Advanced Technologies Group was valued at $7.25 billion when it raised $1 billion in external funding eighteen months ago from three Japanese firms being the automaker Toyota, automotive parts giant Denso, and tech conglomerate SoftBank.

Aurora Innovation is a self-driving company that was founded just three years ago by a team that includes Sterling Anderson, Tesla’s former head of Autopilot; Drew Bagnell, a founding member of Uber's self-driving unit; and Chris Urmson, the former Chief Technology Officer of Google's self-driving car project which was known as 'X' before it morphed into Waymo. 

Aurora is backed by nearly $700 million in private funding from investors that include the e-commerce giant Amazon and venture capital firm Greylock. The company's most recent financing round of $530 million placed its valuation at about $2.5 billion.

Uber ATG seems to have bigger operations than Aurora making a possible sale to the company quite tricky. It seems that Uber is looking to merge its self-driving unit with Aurora and cede control while maintaining a stake in the combined company. It wouldn't be the first time that Uber is arranging such kind of a deal, given the company has done that with some of its divisions in the past, most recently the sale of its European freight business to a German rival named Sennder

For now, there are only reported discussions, with no guarantee that a sale will go through. If it eventually does, however, it'll mark one of the most notable deals from the nascent self-driving industry.