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Idiot Investors Plead For Uber To Re-Invest In Its Deadly Self-Driving Cars

Illustration for article titled Idiot Investors Plead For Uber To Re-Invest In Its Deadly Self-Driving Cars
Photo: Getty Images (Getty Images)
The Morning ShiftAll your daily car news in one convenient place. Isn't your time more important?

If you’ve followed the story of Uber over the past few years, you’d be entitled to wonder what kind of person invests in a company like that? New evidence suggests: a moron. All that and more in The Morning Shift for September 21, 2020.

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1st Gear: Isn’t One Enough?

Uber’s self-driving car program has already killed a person. You’d think that would sufficiently sour anyone on the idea of putting robot eyes on the road, but then you wouldn’t be an investor.

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From Bloomberg:

In recent months, the company’s two largest shareholders, SoftBank Group Corp. and the venture firm Benchmark, have privately encouraged CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to find more investors for the division, which is expected to exhaust its funds by the end of 2021, and re-evaluate its strategy, people familiar with the situation told Bloomberg.

Khosrowshahi is exploring various options. One would see Uber accelerating the project by open-sourcing it to coders around the world, said the people, who requested anonymity to speak about a private matter. Or the company could continue building a proprietary car with money from existing partners, Toyota Motor Corp. and affiliate Denso Corp., and possibly new ones, they said.

It’s an existential decision because without a fleet of autonomous vehicles,Uber risks losing its grip on the ride-hailing market to any number of companies, from Alphabet Inc.’s well-established Waymo unit to upstarts like Amazon.com Inc.’s Zoox, which recently got the green light to test autonomous vehicles on California roads without a safety driver.

PitchBook mobility analyst Asad Hussain describes a nightmare scenario where Waymo develops its own network, Amazon gives free rides to Prime subscribers, and Uber becomes irrelevant. “Self-driving is the next smartphone,” he said. “You don’t want to get left out.”

If I were in charge of a company that couldn’t find a future for itself without re-investing in a technology that already ran somebody over, I would simply find another business to do.

2nd Gear: Chinese Ridesharing Giant Didi Is Partnering Up To Make Its Own EVs

The Uber of China, Didi Chuxing, meanwhile, is partnering with BYD to make its own electric cars, as Bloomberg reports:

Didi plans to release the first batch of the customized EVs to fleet partners nationwide by the end of 2020, another person familiar with the matter said.

Making and using its own cars would allow Didi to better manage the quality of vehicles under its offering. It would also afford it greater control over its fleet of drivers. Currently, people can rent a car from a third-party leasing company and then use that car to drive for Didi. By owning and managing the cars itself, Didi can keep a better tab on drivers as well.

The move may also prepare Didi for the shift toward self-driving vehicles at some point down the road, when it will likely need to take complete control over its fleet.

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I wish none of this was happening!

3rd Gear: ‘Green’ Amazon Just Can’t Help Itself From Buying Fuel-Guzzling Planes

I am absolutely losing it over this Bloomberg article about how Amazon just can’t seem to help itself from buying up giant planes and shooting its “green pledge” to shit:

Amazon has been among the biggest lessors of converted Boeing Co. 767s in the last five years as demand for online shopping has soared—more so since Covid-19 struck. A limited choice of converted planes and efforts to cap costs have left the online retailer with some of the freight sector’s oldest aircraft, many of them older than the company itself.

In June, Amazon said it was expanding its 70-strong fleet by leasing 12 converted Boeing 767-300 passenger jets, including a 29-year-old model it took delivery of in May. For haulers like Amazon Air, FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc., increased demand means more of these aging planes in the air and, hence, higher emissions, making it harder to shrink their carbon footprint and meet climate pledges.

[...]

Amazon, which has pledged to make 50% of its shipments net zero carbon by 2030, operated 38% more flights in the U.S. in the first half of 2020, compared with the same period last year, according to Luxembourg-based Cargo Facts Consulting. Emissions from its jets rose 35% in 2019 as it shipped 1.9 billion pounds of cargo on 40,163 flights, the consulting firm estimates. Amazon declined to comment on the numbers, saying that for the company as a whole, carbon emissions rose 15% last year.

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I, for one, am shocked a toothless pledge isn’t standing up.

4th Gear: Turbo Manufacturer Garrett Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Unofficial fan favorite of the Boost Brigade, the tuner turbo titan Garrett Motion is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as Reuters reports:

The company listed both assets and liabilities in the range of $1 billion and $10 billion, according to a filing with the U.S Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

Garrett Motion’s largest customer is Ford Motor Co., which accounted for 12 percent of 2019 sales, according to its annual report.

Automakers and suppliers have been hit by the coronavirus outbreak, which led to shuttered vehicle factories and disrupted supply chains.

“...the financial strains of the heavy debt load and liabilities we inherited in the spin-off from Honeywell — all exacerbated by COVID-19 — have created a significant long-term burden on our business,” CEO Olivier Rabiller said in a statement.

The company has accused Honeywell of devising the spinoff of Garrett Motion, its transportation systems business, in late 2018 to offload Honeywell’s liabilities related to asbestos-exposure claims.

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COVID... this is the last straw. I am warning you. Do not take away turbos.

5th Gear: Please Enjoy This Article About Airlines Yearning To Pollute

It just wouldn’t be a full news day without a Financial Times article detailing a completely brain-melting article about how backward everything is in the world of big business.

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For instance, please enjoy “Airlines pine for roar of jet engines over the Atlantic,” an article about corporations yearning to get some exhaust back into the atmosphere:

For some of the world’s biggest airlines, the sweetest sound will be the roar of jet engines returning over the north Atlantic.

Six months into the coronavirus crisis, the skies remain quiet as the threat grows to the large carriers that depend on the transatlantic airways — among the busiest and most lucrative in the world. 

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The article also goes into depth on how governments are not rushing to reopen airways as they spread coronavirus as well. It’s a great read in full here.

Reverse: A Good Name Goes A Long Way

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Neutral: Is There A Safe Way To Develop Autonomous Cars?

I’m not sure how you reconcile real-world environment testing with the eventuality of road deaths.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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A Morning Shift finally hit 5/5 wrong takes, congrats all around!