Uber’s strategy in the AV race: spend lots and lots of money

Unsealed court documents revealed that Uber had been spending up to $20m a month on developing AV technology. But is that so unprecedented?

March 13, 2019

According to unsealed court documents, Uber’s goal, at one point, was to have 75k autonomous vehicles on the road this year, with ambitions of operating driverless taxi services in 13 cities by 2022.

The report was written for Uber as part of last year’s patent and trade secrets lawsuit with Waymo. To hit that mark, the documents show the company was spending $20m a month on developing self-driving technologies in the run-up to this year’s expected IPO.

But, Uber’s rumored to be valued anywhere between $75B and $120B

So what’s the big deal?

According to TechCrunch, the 2016 figures represented an over-ambitious, potentially reckless, college-try to hit autonomy targets.   

If Uber had kept a $20m monthly run rate since starting its AV program in 2015, it could’ve blazed through over $900m on AV research.

That said, former employees and other industry execs believe that Waymo is currently spending at least $1B a year.

Turns out, everyone’s doin’ it

Per Axios, many companies have made autonomous spending a multimillion-dollar priority in the past year.

GM Cruise lost $728m on AV development in 2018, while Ford took around $674m worth of spending on its mobility department (including AVs) outback and blasted it to smithereens.

The same goes for Lyft, which spent $300m on AV R&D in 2018 — not to mention the grip of AV startups that have collectively raised billions to develop driverless delivery vehicles.

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