Uber Is Racing for Self-Driving Taxi Supremacy. But The Rest of the Auto World Isn’t Giving Up Easy
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, touring Asia this week, tweeted a picture on Thursday that showed him and Toyota president Akio Toyoda having “great discussions about growing our #autonomous partnership” while holding baseball bats.
They’ll need the bats to fend off the increasing number of rivals piling into the self-driving taxi space. Hours after that tweet, local Toyota (TM) competitor Nissan announced that it would soon test its own “Easy Ride” self-driving cab in partnership with Japanese tech firm DeNA.
The tests will take place in Yokohama next month, and Nissan (NSANY) plans to start providing the service to the Japanese public in the early 2020s.
“We realize that it’s going to take time to become a service operator, but we want to enter into this segment by partnering with companies which are experts in the field,” Nissan CEO Hiroto Saikawa told Reuters. DeNA is a big local mobile platform provider, and Easy Ride will naturally be app-based.
Nissan, Renault (RNSDF), and Mitsubishi (MMTOF) are also working together to look into a deal with Didi Chuxing, China’s big Uber rival.
Also this month, Mercedes parent Daimler (DDAIF) and partner Bosch revealed in the German industry press that they will start testing self-driving taxis within the next few months.
And then there’s Alphabet’s Waymo, which last November started testing driverless Chrysler Pacifica minivans in Phoenix.
In recent days, Arizona authorities gave Waymo the approval it needs to launch the U.S.’s first commercial driverless ride-hailing service. Waymo now says it hopes to launch that service this year.
So it’s no surprise that Uber’s Khosrowshahi told reporters this week that his company wanted to partner with other players than Toyota, as it tries to “make sure we have access to leading autonomous technology.”
“In less than a year, autonomous vehicles will be on the road in our network,” he said. “Much sooner than you would expect.”
Truly, the race is on.