Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on self-driving cars, Uber’s IPO plans and more

By : |October 20, 2016 0

Uber is the world’s most valuable private company and one of the largest ride-hailing services in the world but that isn’t sufficient for Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO. Uber aims for much higher realms.

Speaking at the annual Vanity Fair Summit in San Francisco, which brings together head honchos in the business, technology, media and entertainment worlds, Kalanick threw some insights into Uber’s IPO plans, its tryst and its future plans on self-driving cars, why did it sell its Chinese arm to Didi Chuxing and much more.

Well, as far as self-driving cars are concerned, Kalanick believes skeptics need to take a breather as this technology is not kicking out the human force from the industry. Surely, not in the coming many years.

“I think people misunderstand how this technology is going to rollout,” Kalanick said, elaborating on Uber’s acquisition of self-driving trucking startup Otto in August. “It’s going to take a while before all those trucks are autonomous everywhere it needs to go,” Kalanick mentioned how a freight hauler could be automated to drive on its own only in certain situations, like on long highway routes. “But then it has to back into the distribution center,” he added.

Delving into the autonomous vehicle technology, Kalanick said, “We’re at the very beginning stages of becoming a robotics company.” “We have hundreds of scientists working on our hardest problems.”

“When the software is driving the car, you see what the software see,” Kalanick said describing what it’s like to be in one of these cars. “As we move towards the future, autonomy is a pretty critical thing for us. It’s existential.”

Notably, the existential crisis that Uber’s drivers will face in that future wasn’t talked much about by the CEO.

According to Kalanick, technology might have advanced in last few years but we are still far from determining things like a liability in crashes, rules around self-driving in unsafe conditions like snow or rain, and a host of other logistical and engineering challenges that in turn create regulatory complications.
Interestingly, Kalanick spoke on similar lines for his company’s IPO plans. “I feel like we maybe just entered high school.” “It’s the ninth grade. It’s not the time to go to prom yet.”

“We’ve raised money so we can invest it and grow the business, geographically and across products and technology,” Kalanick said. “So we’re doing it to invest it. We didn’t raise money so we could hoard it, we raised it so we could invest. That’s what our investors expect. I don’t know if the general public totally gets it.”

The CEO also shed some light on Uber selling its arm to Didi Chuxing in China. According to him, working in China isn’t like the rest of the world.

“In China, the government is involved in business in many different ways,” Kalanick said. “They’re involved in media and business. When you go to China, you have to rethink how you’re doing everything. You have to become Chinese. And if you’re not willing to become Chinese, and you think you know how to do something best, you’re going to get your ass handed to you. You have to be humble and assume everything is different until proven otherwise.“

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