Uber is sniffing around the German car market in search of a fleet of autonomous vehicles, according to Reuters. It is unclear whether the ride-hail company wants to purchase cars that are already self-driving or traditional cars with some autonomous features. Many German automakers, including Volkswagen's Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW, are working on their own autonomous vehicles.
claims of being just a tech company would become moot
Earlier, Germany's Manager Magazin reported that Uber had placed an order for 100,000 Mercedes S-Class series with Daimler, citing unnamed sources at both companies, but another source told Reuters that report was inaccurate. Manager speculated the order could cost Uber around 10 billion euros, or $11.3 billion. Uber declined comment on both stories.
It's no secret that Uber is pursuing its own self-driving technology, using engineers it poached from Google and Carnegie Mellon University. The company recently announced plans to expand its Pittsburgh facility to include a test track for driverless cars. Still, purchasing a fleet of cars, especially one of such size, has not been part of Uber's playbook so far. The company's business model relies heavily on drivers using their own personal vehicles, or ones leased from for-hire vehicle companies. If Uber buys a fleet of cars, its claims of being a technology company rather than a transportation company would become moot.
Also, S-Class vehicles are not self-driving (although they do have some autonomous features), nor are they the type of cars one would normally associate with ride-sharing services beyond Uber's high-end black car service. Mercedes has said that fully autonomous S-Class vehicles won't be ready until 2020 — which is also the date that many analysts say we should begin to see self-driving cars available in public.