Ex-Uber CEO and founder Travis Kalanick's bad and likely illegal behavior aside, his vision of not wanting to pay "the other dude in the car" has lead to a ground-breaking driverless test fleet.
But now that he has left the company and is not coming back, Uber's robo-taxi development work is ongoing, a Uber spokesperson tells Driverless.id. And that's a potentially good thing.
We know Kalanick is not returning to run Uber after reportedly attempting to garner support among his former colleagues to regain control of the company's board, according to several reports. In a Wall Street Journal-reviewed email, Uber co-founder Garrett Camp unequivocally informed employees earlier this week that, rumors aside, Kalanick would not return to the company as its CEO and that his replacement was being actively sought.
Meanwhile, following Kalanick's recent departure from the company amid allegations by Waymo that Uber stole driverless-related trade secrets, sexual harassment claims, and other allegations; the future of Uber's driverless program as well as its general future as a company came under question.
However, we now know that Uber's driverless tests in Pittsburgh remain ongoing, according to an email communication Driverless had with a Uber spokesperson. While we do not yet have details about the exact status of Uber's driverless program, we thus know Uber continues to test its Ford Fusion driverless cars in Pittsburgh (although much of the technology is the focal point of the Waymo lawsuit). So as Uber continues to test its driverless car fleet as it prepares a fleet of robo-taxis to compete with those developed by Waymo, Cruise Automation, Argo, and now Lyft; Kalanick's work is thus done in many ways.
In order to replace the "dude in the car" with ostensibly cheaper robotically controlled ride-hailing fleets, Kalanick oversaw Uber's:
- hiring of 50 robotics engineers from local Pittsburgh Carnegie Mellon;
- investment in an expansion of its Advanced Technology Center in Pittsburgh as the hub of Uber's driverless program;
- ongoing driverless robo-taxi tests (as confirmed by the Uber spokesperson) in Pittsburgh.
Uber thus appears to at least remain somewhat on track in fulfilling Kalanick's goal to save money without having a "dude in the car," except now there is no Kalanick. And if Uber can fulfill that part of Kalanick's mission of successfully launching a driverless fleet in cities around the US minus a hostile corporate culture Kalanick is accused of fostering, then that is a good thing.
Japanese tech giant Softbank is reportedly now looking at investing in ride-hailing firm Lyft or Uber after disclosing it sought to invest in Uber in July. Softbank had reportedly approached Uber unilaterally about offering to purchase a multibillion-dollar stake in the troubled ride-hailing company and is in direct negotiations with Uber about a potential deal.