Uber has dropped plans to build its own driverless car and has sold the division developing the technology to a US start-up, after repeated setbacks to its dreams of having a network of robot taxis.
The company said it had agreed to sell its Advanced Technologies Group, which had been developing self-driving software, to US start-up Aurora, in exchange for a minority stake.
Uber’s founder Travis Kalanick had put driverless cars at the centre of the company’s future, believing that the rapid onset of the technology would make the company vastly profitable by eliminating the cost of drivers. However, the division was struck by disaster in 2018 when one of its cars killed a pedestrian, forcing the company to suspend all testing for several months.
It was also hit with a trade secrets lawsuit from Waymo, the driverless car unit owned by Google’s parent company. The lawsuit was settled but Uber fired Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer at the heart of the case. Mr Levandowski was this year sentenced to 18 months in prison over criminal charges related to the alleged theft.
Aurora, founded by former Waymo boss Chris Urmson, is one of the most prominent driverless car start-ups in Silicon Valley, and its investors include Amazon. Uber will invest $400m (£300m) into the company as well as transferring its self-driving technology, and will receive a 26pc stake.
Employees and other investors in the unit, which include SoftBank and Toyota, will receive another 14pc. The companies said they had agreed a “strategic partnership”, in which they would work together on bringing driverless Uber cars onto the road. Uber chief Dara Khosrowshahi will also join Aurora’s board.