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Friday, March 18, 2016

Report: With Eye on Self-Driving Cars, Uber Buys 100,000 Mercedes

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 2:18 PM

click to enlarge 538661670_1280x720.jpg

The word out of Germany today is San Francisco-headquartered Uber is buying 100,000 Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedans — not for the world's largest and most obnoxious rap video ("I got 99 problems/but an employee ain't one"), but in order to prepare for the not-too-distant future where taxis — and Uber drivers — are eliminated with self-driving Uber vehicles.

The news first broke via a German publication, Manager Magazin, which noted that both Uber and Daimler (the parent company of the German luxury auto of choice) have been investing "heavily" in autonomous technology: Uber hired away most of Carnegie Mellon University's robotics team, and Mercedes has an S-Class that's able to navigate traffic by itself, Engadget notes.

For Uber — notorious for treating its workers poorly, as if they were excess, unwanted baggage only here by way of necessity — the end goal seems clear: a sentient fleet of Ubers, sans drivers (the company already has one, after all).

And while the original report, sourced from anonymous sources, is now being refuted by anonymous sources, apparently Mercedes wasn't the only automaker Uber approached. 

Tesla was another. No matter who supplied them, "[Uber] wanted autonomous cars," an anonymous source told Reuters. "It seemed like they were shopping around."

click to enlarge The S-Class. - MERCEDES-BENZ
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • The S-Class.

Autonomous cars, self-driving Ubers — no matter what name you use, this has been a Silicon Valley battle in the making for some time.

In December, The Verge reported that Google, whose self-driving car has been in testing for several years now, and Uber appeared on a collision course for competing in the technology.

And for Uber, self-driving cars would be a solution to its most pressing market inefficiency: people. 

Uber's biggest problem has always been people, from the people running the company and their questionable behavior to the people required for the company's business model to work.

Time and again, such as when it replaced American contract labor with overseas contract labor, Uber has demonstrated it doesn't give a shit about people beyond their ability to make the company's business model work. 

And since self-driving cars appear to be a thing of the very near future, Uber has been busy preparing for them for some time. Which bodes very ill for its "workforce," even if they win the trial this summer declaring Uber drivers employees. 

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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