In a corporate world where disruption is part of the job description, transportation company, Uber, has been doing more than its fair share of disrupting over the past few weeks.
Following reported losses of $2bn from a bitter two-year turf and price war with national rival, Didi Chuxing, Uber agreed last month to bow out of China.
However, by way of consolation prize, it left the country with a 20% stake in Didi, so has exited with its head held rather higher than more established companies such as Facebook, Google or Yahoo, all of which were defeated by local champions, state regulation and cultural differences.
Moving swiftly on from China, Uber turned its attention to India where Ola, the market leader, numbers Didi amongst its owners, following a funding round in November 2015.
This week, Uber launched two new services – one for booking rides without using its app, and the other for booking rides for friends – just as Ola announced that it had closed the TaxiForSure operation it bought in March 2015 and laid off between 700 and 1,000 workers.
Now Uber has decided to focus on the self-driving niche, taking on goliaths like Google, Tesla and Ford, which are all investing heavily in the emerging technology.
Uber has bought Otto, a San Francisco-based truck company, and announced a venture with Volvo for the development of self-driving cars. As such, Volvo will be competing head-on with its former owner, Ford.
Tesla’s autopilot systems have had teething problems with one fatality in the USA in May and another crash in China this month. So the choice of a car manufacturer from Sweden, whose vehicles are noted for their safety features, is another clever move on Uber’s part.
Volvo will send a fleet to Pittsburgh for modification this month, and will be testing the prototypes with drivers to begin with. Lucky local residents who wish to take part in trials will be able to hail the prototypes for free.