Bloomberg Editor-In-Chief, John Micklethwait spoke from the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland with Uber Technologies CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, to discuss the plans coming ahead for Uber.

The discussion went through many relevant topics regarding economic matters, but the zenith of the declarations given by Khosrowshahi was related to something the world has been waiting for a very long time, self-driving Ubers and flying cars.

Though the company still has a very long way ahead, and their finances have not been the best so far, the CEO explains they have an optimistic, yet careful vision for the years to come.

Self-driving cars on the road

Khosrowshahi explains that plan is to go at a careful pace since many dynamics of the whole project have to be tested to get an efficient working autonomous ride-hailing service. He also explains that autonomous cars have already been inroads with the purpose of testing some of their pilot projects, being one the most recent one in Arizona. This all helps to make way for the vehicles to become a part of their fleet of cars that will eventually represent the biggest percentage of their rides.

Uber self-driving cars, Uber flying cars, Uber new plans
A model of the company’s flying car. Image credit: Uber

They expect their percentage of autonomous vehicles to start at 5 of the use cases, but hope for it to increase to 10, 15 and even 20 percent as the platform adds information to the database of what a ride in the world would be, helping the algorithms of the page.

Although Khosrowshahi says the project is expected to come out on the streets as a real use case and not as a test in 18 months, he also explains that they have issues that represent a significant conflict when it comes to saying that every single use case will be autonomous. The CEO made clear isolated cases for their obstacles like, not having every place correctly mapped or emerging outside factors like bad climate. For those cases, a driver will be selected by Uber.

By the time the algorithms perfect the driving skills of the autonomous vehicle, Khosrowshahi explains that:

“Uber will then have to retrain its computer driver in every city, and that he then expects within 10 to 15 years to be able to serve most cities competently with autonomous tech.”

Khosrowshahi expects to have the perfect driver in Phoenix within five years.

Flying Cars ready by 2028

While it may seem like a surprise, the project that involves the creation of a flying vehicle that supplies an Uber service had already completed Phase 1 in 2015. The NASA signed its first formal services contract covering low-altitude airspace, according to Reuters.

Mark Moore, a NASA veteran, developed a jet propulsion project which Uber thought to be its foundation for the urban flying transportation technology, explains Reuters.

They describe the craft as an:

“Electric jet-powered vehicle – part helicopter, part drone, and part fixed-wing aircraft – running multiple small rotors capable of both vertical take-off and landing and rapid horizontal flight”.

The NASA has made public since then that the autonomous “air traffic management systems” will be developed so the Phase 4 of the project (testing drones used in agriculture in high-density urban areas), will hopefully begin within the firsts months of 2019.

The main issues this project presents orbit the coexistence of a high quantity of these autonomous air vehicles over urban areas and around airports, besides from the certification of the aircraft by authorities, the training of the autonomous pilot or even a human one, and the management of the traffic while flying.

Will Uber finally be profitable?

Uber self-driving cars, Uber flying cars, Uber new plans
Experts argue Uber might not turn a profit from its new plans. Image credit: Uber

Despite the fantastic projects, Khosrowshahi let out during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr. Micklethwait still had another topic to discuss: the losses of Uber (even mentioning the 4 million dollars loss from last year), to which Khosrowshahi had an optimistic yet realistic response.

The CEO very happily says that profits would help, but he explains that their primary goal is not making money, but creating a long-lasting business that keeps expanding aggressively while taking the opportunities that these new and huge investments offer. So regarding becoming profitable, Khosrowshahi calculates a four year period for their goal, since he doesn’t want to give a number given the circumstances that are lining up in short terms.

Also, the discussion isn’t finished without mentioning the lawsuits being filed against the company, including alleged sexual harassment and governments investigations, along with the lack of transparency during the past that now Khosrowshahi rejects. He claims that they will take the responsibilities for the actions taken before.

Khosrowshahi expects Uber to achieve the desired image goal for the company, just as keep being a risk-taking business.

Source: CBS News