What exactly do Uber and Tesla have in common? Not much it seems, at least for now. According to Leftlane News, the former could purchase up to 500,000 self-driving Tesla cars in 2020. That's right: not 50, not 5,000, but rather 500,000!
Expect taxi drivers all over the continent to cringe at this report... and Elon Musk to jump with joy.
Leftlane News quoted Steve Jurvetson, a venture capitalist who recently opened up about a conversation he had with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. Apparently, Kalanick told him that Uber would buy all 500,000 vehicles Tesla plans to build in 2020 if they were fully autonomous.
Right now, Tesla is on track to sell just over 50,000 units in 2015. Production is set to ramp up in the years to come, and with the newly announced Auto Pilot system, most if not all Tesla cars could become self-driving machines by the end of the decade.
Is Uber that bold and rich?
Sure, that was only a verbal exhange between Kalanick and Jurvetson (who by the way has Tesla and Musk-owned SpaceX among his clients), but it reaffirms the interest of ride-sharing companies in autonomous cars. By removing the driver from their business model, they would be able to generate more profits and, in the case of Uber, steer clear of controversies involving drivers.
This hypothetical transaction also says a lot about Uber's financial resources. Not only can the company afford to pay fines and compensate drivers who had their vehicle seized, but it would appear to also have the means to buy half a million cars from luxury-oriented Tesla.
On the other hand, Bloomberg reported last week that Uber is generating $415 million in revenue and $470 million in operating losses, based on a document provided to prospective investors. It also revealed a 300% year-over-year growth.
Executives who know how to make headlines and enemies
Uber's plan to buy 500,000 self-driving Teslas remains pure speculation at this point. Still, the company's rapid rise is drawing more and more concerns, and its service has been banned or suspended in various cities around the globe.
Meanwhile, will Tesla actually increase production to 500,000 cars within five years? And will Musk agree to sell all of them to Uber? Time will tell.
I'm sure angry taxi drivers and car dealer associations in North America are anxious to find out, too.