by Derek Krantz
It appears that the rapidly growing brand Uber is investing in the market of self-driving cars, news that could potentially revolutionize the way we travel.
Uber is a taxi service that allows you to use an app to call for a driver from anywhere. You enter your current location and requested destination, the estimated price of your trip appears, and if a driver chooses to come to you where your driver is in real time is shown. Uber, as well as rival services such as Lyft, have been slowly taking business away from standard taxis in cities all over the country. While many thought that this easy-to-use taxi service was revolutionary in itself, it appears Uber is aiming to go even further.
While many car manufacturers have been working to implement increased gas mileage or built-in wifi to their vehicles, some have been attempting to create self-driving cars that eliminate the need for any human drivers at all. Google has been leading the pack in terms of developing completely automated cars, but they are not the only ones investing in the business. Other major companies interested in developing automated cars include Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, GM, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Renault, Tesla, and Toyota. These driverless vehicles have already started testing on roads in approved states, and although they may be ready to be launched by 2020, many researchers say that in reality they may not hit the roads until 2025-2030 due to the fact that some states don’t yet allow them.
Uber, as well as Lyft, has recently been shopping around to acquire some of this technology. While Lyft has recently made a deal with GM, Uber decided to purchase the cars of the German luxury car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz for testing after considering companies such as Tesla. Uber spent a whopping $10 billion in order to acquire over 100,000 of Mercedes’ S-Class sedans. While these cars are already able to maneuver and drive, they are not yet safe to be put out on the roads because of cars with drivers in them who are less strict about the rules of the road and can prove to be dangerous. Although Mercedes is not yet perfect in it’s self-driving capabilities, it is suggested that Uber made the choice to go with the German manufacturer due to its abilities up to this point.
This deal is colossal for both Mercedes-Benz and Uber. From Mercedes’ perspective, I think it is safe to say that they are satisfied with this deal. One hundred thousand S-Class sedans are about as many as they sell per year, so they are far ahead of their normal sales at this point. For Uber, I’m not so sure. While it will surely bring the company forward in the long run, I believe they may have been better off waiting until closer to the point where the cars are ready to go before spending this much money. The company is already doing very well without the automation and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Plus, automated cars are still at least 5-10 years away. Uber doesn’t actually make as much as you think due to paying its drivers, so it should not be spending $10 billion on cars that don’t fully exist just yet. When the time comes, this would be amazing for them. Not having to pay drivers due to the lack of them will increase their revenue exponentially. The problem is: that time hasn’t come yet.
When, or really still if at this point, this dream of Uber’s becomes a reality, I truly believe that travel would be revolutionized. From anywhere at any time, one of 100,000 Mercedes cars could come to you and take you wherever you need to be. No more awkward silences with drivers. No more tips. Just you and a luxury vehicle taking you wherever you need to be.