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Here is why Uber is slowly drowning, but it's self-driving program continues on

Although the storm that faces the Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick regarding the safety and tenure of his employees has continued to escalate, the company's self-driving program has kept growing. Uber has made efforts and ensured that the autonomy future doesn't pass it by. It has put measures in place to ensure that the self-driving program stays on track even as its drivers and other employees' future seems unstable.


The company's self-driving program has faced lawsuits that challenge its progress such as Waymo, the Google's self-driving car spin-off. When the company was accused of stealing and using an IP address to advance its autonomy program, it fired its self-driving lead, Anthony Levandowski. Moreover, it has lost some of its talents to other competitors such as Argo AI and Aurora.

Researchers and stakeholders in the autonomy sector still believe that there is a lot of work going on towards boosting the self-driving technology at the Advanced Technologies Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is the home of technology for Uber. There are several entrepreneurs who still believe that the over 400 talents at Uber's center have the potential of realizing the autonomous future. David LaRose, an employee at Carnegie Robotics and formerly an employee at the Uber ATG reiterated that the talents at the Uber center have built something very special as far as self-driving technology is concerned at Uber. The engineers are working tirelessly to ensure they get the self-driving cars out on the road.

Uber ATG

When the company first declared its intentions of becoming part of the self-driving technology, they landed in Pittsburgh in 2015. Uber started out on its journey to become a force to reckon with in the industry by poaching talents from Carnegie Mellon University, which has some of the most talented and experienced robotics experts in the country.

Several scientists who had discovered great technologies but had been ignored in various sectors for several years had a chance to bring their ideas into reality at Uber ATG. The evidence of their efforts and innovations hit the road within a period of two years putting Uber in the map of the world's self-driving in the form of Ford Fusions that are self-driving cars. Jackie Erickson who is behind the Pittsburgh Robotics Network said that Uber brought an innovation that had never been experienced before.

Hiring the most talented and experienced employees

The company picked the best talents to work on an idea that was very meaningful to the nation and thus solving the hardest problem that can enable car owners to significantly lower their EVs' maintenance and running costs. However, the rosy picture has been tainted due to the wrangles between the San Francisco trucking unit and the self-driving team based in Pittsburgh. This is common in booming industries that have limited talent pools whereby big brands poach talents to stay competitive. The competition is really stiff. Interestingly, some big companies poach senior talents from their competitors who have been there for over 15 years so as to compromise the progress of other companies' programs. Given that the cost of insuring EVs can run to over 30 percent more than the ordinary gasoline cars, it requires technological advancements and installation of foolproof safety features on EV cars to negotiate for cheap auto insurance quotes with the insurers.

The fact that some very smart talents like John Bares who have remained at Uber as the Uber ATG operations director is an indication that Uber is still on the right track as far as the self-driving program is concerned.

The hiring of AI superstar Raquel Urtasun and some of her very talented researchers who have years of experience in this field is a sign that the company's self-driving program will be part and parcel of the autonomous future. Autonomous vehicles are a technology that takes years to develop and build because they're very complex ideas that cannot be launched in basements within a few weeks. A lot of research and consultations have to be made before launching such systems to customers because self-driving cars are very sensitive when left in the hands of ordinary citizens.

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Stories by Mark Palmer