Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi appeared on NBC’s Today Show on Thursday morning, addressing a number of hot topics tech in rapid succession, ranging from Facebook and privacy rights, self-driving cars, and the company’s sexual harassment scandals.
Most recently CEO at travel site Expedia, Khosrowshahi took over the reins at Uber last August from Travis Kalanick after the company endured several months of nonstop scandals, ignited by allegations of a toxic corporate culture brought to light in a memo early last year by former engineer Susan Fowler.
Khosrowshahi could not have appeared more differently from Kalanick during his interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. Khosrowshahi simultaneously came across as polished and humble while employing a charm offensive that has seemingly worked well for him during an apology tour of sorts as Uber tries to rehabilitate its image with customers and government authorities around the world.
‘The Old Days Are Over’
While there are many hot (and controversial) topics buzzing in Silicon Valley right now, the buzziest (this week) is the discussing around privacy rights and personal data in light of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony on Capital Hill this week.
Khosrowshahi told Guthrie that he believes “early on, these technology companies were fairly idealistic, for the right reasons,” but acknowledged that things have changed and added later that he would “welcome regulation.”
“The fact is that human beings are sometimes good, and sometimes not,” Khosrowshahi said. “I think Silicon Valley is understanding that with building these platforms comes the responsibility to make sure that those platforms are being used for good.
In regards to Uber customer personal data, Khosrowshahi said simply, “We don’t try to monetize it.”
Driverless Cars Will Be ‘Safer Than Humans’
Khosrowshahi also briefly touched on the company’s driverless car pilot program as well as the ongoing investigation after one of Uber’s self-driving cars struck and killed a woman in Tempe, Ariz. last month. Khosrowshahi said the company is cooperating with authorities.
Nevertheless, Khosrowshahi remains optimistic about the future of the program, asserting that “ultimately, self-driving cars will be safer than humans,” but that right now, they’re more like “student drivers.”
There was some brief Uber news at the tail end of the interview, including more about driver background checks and a new app designed for drivers. The company also just announced the expansion of Uber Movement, a program intended to benefit urban planners and fueled by aggregated (and anonymized) Uber ride data, covering how different times and travel times can be impacted by major events and road closures.
Yet, with less an emphasis on product news and more talk about what Uber is doing to change (and better) itself going forward, the real purpose of the morning show interview was clearly meant to reassure shareholders and customers that it has a stable leader at the wheel of company.