Travis Kalanick says his drivers’ license is expired — though, of course he has to say that. But in Kalanick’s future, with a fleet of driverless Ubers shuttling people around, it might be that everyone’s drivers’ licenses will expire.
His company, Uber, could essentially be a replacement for owning a car for Kalanick, and also for the 40 million monthly active riders the company has. Kalanick revealed that number on stage at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit this year in San Francisco. Kalanick also said that drivers made somewhere between $1.5 billion and $2 billion last month. Those monthly active riders pay around $50 per month, he said.
While the appears to continue to be making a lot of money, much of its value is going to be dependent on the company’s ability to roll out its autonomous car program. Uber is going to be competing with many more companies outside of just the simple taxi industry, including other autonomous vehicle companies like Google and even traditional auto makers. Even today, Tesla said it would roll out autonomous vehicle hardware capabilities to its cars.
“Really when you start to automate, you start to do the self-driving thing on our roads, the roads in many ways are the cardiovascular system for our city, you make it a much more efficient cardiovascular system,” Kalanick said. “These cars, when they go into self-driving, you’re now starting to become a robotics company. We’re at the very beginning stages of becoming a robotics company.”
To that extent, the company has started aggressive research and testing in Pittsburgh for its autonomous vehicles. Kalanick said that part of the challenge was taking a traditional scientific approach on a much shorter time scale in order to keep up with competitors. “Things are happening so fast that you need science to be part of that overall product effort that’s happening today,” he said.
In all this, Uber, worth tens of billions of dollars, has had to relentlessly re-invent itself even down to its logos. It’s always, of course, had a little bit (or a lot) of criticism as a result of that — even the previous iconic “U” icon that existed for most of the past decade. “When we changed it to that we got so much hate,” he said. “That icon you love, you know how much hate we got?”
Beyond self-driving cars, the company has to look at international growth. But Uber’s global expansion has also run into a few hiccups. In China, the company spent around $2 billion before throwing in the towel and merging with Did Chuxing, getting 20% of the company and a board seat out of the deal. Though, Didi hasn’t held any board meetings yet, Kalanick said.
“I think the better way to think about it is that in China, the government is involved in business in many different ways,” Kalanick said. “When you go to China you have to rethink how you do everything, you have to start from scratch. If you go into China thinking you know how to do something best you are gonna get your ass handed to you.”
Uber, notoriously, has raised a ton of money and doesn’t look like it’s going public any time soon. Kalanick also said he hasn’t sold a single share of Uber. Of course, everyone has to ask when the company is going public, and Kalanick is always going to have an answer.
Here’s the answer this time around: “Let’s call it the 9th grade, it’s not time to go to prom yet.”