Uber CEO caps busy news day with driverless car predictions

Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick, shown at 2014 Time 100 Gala in New York City, said the company will adopt self-driving cars whenever they're readily available.
(Evan Agostini /Invision/AP)

Popular ride-sharing app Uber outlined its future plans Wednesday, including announcing a partnership with AT&T and raising the prospects of using self-driving cars.

Uber, which serves about 1.37 million people in more than 70 cities, announced that the service hires about 20,000 drivers a month. That news came in the light of comments by Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick that the company will adopt self-driving cars whenever they’re readily available.

“Look, this is the way the world is going,’” Kalanick said at Re/Code’s inaugural Code Conference. “If Uber doesn’t go there, it’s not going to exist either way.”


Kalanick later clarified his statements on Twitter, saying that driverless cars are decades away. Although Google announced earlier this week that it would begin testing driverless cars in the near future, Uber’s use of any of those vehicles is a long ways away, he said. (Contrary to this satirical TechCrunch article).

In the meantime, Uber will continue to support all of its drivers, Uber spokesman Lane Kasselman said.

“I think that idea is multiple decades away,” he said. “Right now we’re focused on delivering as much value to riders and drivers as possible.”

Uber drivers on average bring home a decent income, ranging from $90,766 a year in New York City to $53,000 a year in Los Angeles. Kasselman said the disparity is the result of the higher population density in New York City, which increases the total number of rides, as well as a population that is accustomed to riding a taxi.

“It’s a volume thing,” he said. “It’s a supply-and-demand market dynamic that really plays into it.”

Additionally, Uber announced a partnership with telecommunications giant AT&T to provide drivers with wireless service and to embed the Uber app on new AT&T Android smartphones.

The partnership has prompted positive reactions from analysts such as MachNation Managing Director Steve Hilton, who said the merging of disruptive business models will benefit both companies.

“Uber is bringing solutions to the market that disrupt the traditional taxi industry,” Hilton said in an email. “AT&T is bringing [advanced connectivity] solutions to the market that disrupt the way enterprise have structured their critical business processes.”