Uber CEO confirms we can expect driverless cars

No more awkward conversations about your route


At his first TED Talk, at a TED conference in Vancouver, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was introduced as a “frightening competitor, evil genius and a heroic reformer”.

Speaking to entrepreneurs and “influencers”, “evil genius” Kalanick set out his vision for the future of the company – including plans for driverless cars – and his vision of Uber as a totally global company.

Why he changed the logo from the U to that weird circle

So the Uber logo now looks like a toilet seat or a lock on a door, but there’s more to it than just corporate rebranding.

“When we first got started, it was just black cars,” he said. “Literally you push a button and get an S-Class. As we’ve gone worldwide, from S-Classes to auto-rickshaws in India, it was important for us to be more accessible, to be more hyperlocal… We also had to become more iconic. A ‘U’ doesn’t mean anything in Sanskrit. A ‘U’ doesn’t mean anything in Mandarin.”

Travis Kalanick speaks at TED2016 - Dream, February 15-19, 2016, Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Kalanick during his Ted Talk last night

Get ready for self-driving Ubers, but be prepared to wait

Kalanick has touched on this in the past, but he confirmed that we can expect cars to go driverless – meaning no more awkward driver conversations and no more making wrong turns and blaming the SatNav.

He was asked how this move would affect his current workforce and the Uber boss confessed it would be happening well beyond five years from now.

“This is a world that is going to exist and for good reason. About one million people die every year in cars, and countless hours are wasted by frustrated drivers caught in traffic. Quality of life will improve. It’s also going to be a long transition. They will work in certain places and not in others.”

When you grow so fast, your culture has to develop just as quickly

Critics – and there are many of them – have been hard on Uber. Kalanick revealed what it’s like on the inside.

“Two and a half years ago, our company was 400 people. Today, it is 6,500. When you go through that growth, you have to cement your culture values and talk about them all of the time. Make sure people are constantly checking. ‘Are we good people doing good work?’ If you’ve checked those boxes, the next part of that is making sure you’re telling your story. I think we learned a lot of lessons and came out stronger.”