Investors could pump $1bn into Uber self-driving cars

An Uber self-driving car drives down 5th Street in San Francisco, California. (AFP)
Updated 14 March 2019
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Investors could pump $1bn into Uber self-driving cars

  • SoftBank’s Vision Fund and other investors are weighing up a minority stake in Uber’s self-driving vehicle unit
  • Uber has been in a race with Google-owned Waymo and a host of other companies to develop self-driving vehicles

SAN FRANCISCO: A group of investors including SoftBank Group are in talks to invest $1 billion or more into Uber’s self-driving car unit, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.
Word of a potential infusion of cash valuing the Uber autonomous vehicle division at from $5 billion to $10 billion comes as the ride-hailing startup steers toward a hotly-anticipated stock market debut.
Under terms being discussed, SoftBank’s Vision Fund and other investors, including a car maker, would take a minority stake in Uber’s self-driving vehicle unit, according to the Journal.
Led by Japan’s Masayoshi Son, the Vision Fund is heavily invested by Saudi Arabia.
The Journal described the “late-stage” talks as fluid, with the possibility a deal might not be reached.
Uber has been in a race with Google-owned Waymo and a host of other companies, including major automakers, to develop self-driving vehicles.
Waymo said this month that it would sell a key innovation to companies that don’t compete with its autonomous cars.
The California-based unit of Google parent Alphabet will offer its lidar sensors, which measure distance with pulses of laser light, to companies in robotics, security, agricultural technology and other sectors.
The move could offer a new revenue stream for Waymo as it invests in bringing “robo taxis” to market, broadening the availability of the 3D lidar sensors it has been developing since 2011.
Uber is aiming beyond car rides to becoming the “Amazon of transportation” in a future where people share, instead of own, vehicles.
If all goes to plan, commuters could ride an e-scooter to a transit station, take a train, then grab an e-bike, share a ride or take an e-scooter at the arriving station to complete a journey — all using an Uber app on a smartphone.
Uber’s platform moves cargo as well as people, with a “Freight” service that connects truckers with shippers in a way similar to how drivers connect with people seeking rides.
Uber is also seeing growing success with an “Eats” service that lets drivers make money delivering meals ordered from restaurants.


For Iranians, economic crisis looms larger than US tensions

Updated 3 min 52 sec ago
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For Iranians, economic crisis looms larger than US tensions

  • Iran’s 80 million people struggle to buy meat, medicine and other staples of daily life
  • Many pointed to the economy, not the possible outbreak of war

TEHRAN: Across Iran’s capital, the talk always seems to come back to how things may get worse.
Battered by US sanctions and its depreciating rial currency, Iran’s 80 million people struggle to buy meat, medicine and other staples of daily life.
Many pointed to the economy, not the possible outbreak of war, as Iran’s major concern. Iran’s rial currency traded at 32,000 to $1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear deal. Now it is at 148,000, and many have seen their life’s savings wiped out.
Nationwide, the unemployment rate is 12 percent. For youth it’s even worse, with a quarter of all young people unemployed, according to Iran’s statistic center.
“The economic situation is very bad, very bad. Unemployment is very high, and those who had jobs have lost theirs,” said Sadeghi, the housewife. “Young people can’t find good jobs, or get married, or become independent.”
Sores Maleki, a 62-year-old retired accountant, said talks with the US to loosen sanctions would help jumpstart Iran’s economy.
“We should go and talk to America with courage and strength. We are able to do that, others have done it,” Maleki said. “We can make concessions and win concessions. We have no other choice.”
But such negotiations will be difficult, said Reza Forghani, a 51-year-old civil servant. He said Iran needed to get the US to “sign a very firm contract that they can’t escape and have to honor.” Otherwise, Iran should drop out of the nuclear deal.
“When someone refuses to keep promises and commitments, you can tolerate it a couple of times, but then certainly you can’t remain committed forever. You will react,” Forghani said. “So I don’t think we should remain committed to the deal until the end.”
Yet for Iran’s youth, many of whom celebrated the signing of the 2015 nuclear deal in the streets, the situation now feels more akin to a funeral. Many openly discuss their options to obtain a visa — any visa — to get abroad.
“Young people have a lot of stress and the future is unknown,” said Hamedzadeh, the 20-year-old civil servant. “The future is so unknown that you can’t plan. The only thing they can do is to somehow leave Iran and build a life abroad.”