Uber will shortly resume its self-driving tests, and is looking into benefits for drivers, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told Recode’s Code Conference on Wednesday.
A week after closing down its self-driving car program in Arizona, Khosrowshahi reiterated Uber will look to get its autonomous cars on the road “this summer,” and that it’s doing everything it can to ensure they’re safe.
Uber shuttered the program following a fatality involving one of its autonomous vehicles, which struck and killed a woman crossing the street back in March.
At #CodeCon, Uber CEO says the company will get its self driving cars back on the road “this summer” after closing its test in Phoenix recently due to a fatality. Says he wants Uber to eventually license its self driving tech and is in talks with Waymo to put their cars on Uber.
Khosrowshahi acknowledged “some” Uber drivers are disgruntled, but said the company is looking to improve pay, as ensuring that drivers are happy will be key to long term growth of the business.
The company is also looking into offering drivers a benefits and insurance package, following considerable pressure about how workers are treated in the gig economy.
“As you think about the gig economy, and independent workers; independent workers, they’re a second-class citizen that all of a sudden that don’t get access to benefits, healthcare, just because they’ve decided to work for themselves, versus outsourcing their career to a company,” he said.
Regarding the future of Uber’s autonomous vehicles, Khosrowshahi said the company will look to license the technology to third parties, and is also in talks with Waymo to do so.
He also envisages that they will be shared rides (a la UberPOOL) and that both humans and machines will operate them.
“Machines augment humans. The magic is that machines and humans are the thing that make things better,” he said.
Khosrowshahi also wants Uber to become the “Amazon of transportation,” in that the company will offer third-party transportation services through its platform, much like Amazon doesn’t sell only its own products.
“We want to offer the BART (the Bay Area’s public transport system) as an alternative,” he said.
“We want you to be able to say should I take the BART, should I take a bike, should I take an Uber; all of it to be real time information, all of it optimized for you and all of it be done with a push of a button.”
As reported by CNBC on Wednesday, Khosrowshahi also confirmed Uber is working to go public in late 2019.
Despite the company’s persistent losses, Khosrowshahi said that Uber was in a “good position” when it came to its profile, profitability and margins are continuing to improve, and that it has a “very strong balance sheet.”
“I do think that we’re on track in 2019 for an IPO,” he told the news outlet. “Lots of things can happen in the world but we have a reasonable buffer as well, so I think we’re in a pretty good spot.”
Uber was valued at $72 billion in February, a new high that arose from its settlement with Alphabet. Before Uber goes public, Khosrowshahi wants to build out its management team (it is actively looking for a chief financial officer), and further improve its product and image.
“We are very much rebuilding the brand and what Uber represents, and I think we are making terrific progress … what we’re working on now is to build out the safest mobility platform on Earth,” he said.