Is the end of Uber just around the corner?

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Uber, the company that managed to turn the transportation world upside down despite countless controversies and lawsuits, may finally hit the ground following multiple unfortunate events and technological advancements in the recent years.

Uber’s annual revenue in 2017 was $7.5bn, an enormous number. Were it a public company, it would rank 367th on the Fortune 500 list of biggest US companies. However, in that same year, Uber lost $4.5bn, a truly frightening number, especially once you realise that $4.5bn is 60% of Uber’s annual revenue. But these numbers were expected; Uber’s losses have always been excessively large. Many have defended the company, stating that Uber is using the Silicon Valley strategy of “grow now, make money later”. However, upon digging into the expenses of the company, it is difficult to back up that statement with facts. The largest expense was the drivers, costing the company $2.8bn. It’s not going down either; recent headlines like “I work 90 hours and still need to claim benefits” will surely pressure Uber into raising the wages of their drivers. It is unlikely that Uber will be able to continue attracting investors if their losses continue to escalate.

This is perhaps best realised by the people within the company. In 2017, Uber saw 21 of the top executives and employees of the company resign, including the co-founder and ex-CEO Travis Kalanick. This is undoubtedly a sign of trouble. Many of the former employees likely left the company before its failure could stain their professional record. This will, of course, affect the willingness of investors to pump money into the company which seems to have lost faith in itself.

Possibly the biggest threat to Uber is the rise of self-driving cars, which is very well realised by the company. In the last few years, Uber invested large amounts of money and attention into self-driving technology, with the potential intention of becoming a technology company similar to Google or Microsoft., However their efforts have recently been stomped by Google, who won a lawsuit against Uber for a further $245m after Uber was caught using Google’s proprietary technology in their own cars. This event puts a large dent in Uber’s attempt to catch up to their competitors, as well as returns of Q1.

Uber’s attempt at securing their future came in an interesting form. Together with similar businesses such as Lyft, Uber submitted a proposal called “Shared Mobility Principles” which outlined 10 guidelines and plans for incorporating self-driving cars into cities safely. The end of this proposal, however, stated that self-driving vehicles should not be owned privately, and should instead be shared publically. As expected, this (rightfully) caused huge media uproar, damaging Uber’s brand significantly.

While it is still unclear whether Uber will survive, the recent events have drastically harmed the financial situation of the company. With losses rising each year and self-driving technology creeping up while Uber is still trying to decode the magic that makes it work, it’s looking unpleasant for the company. It is clear that major changes need to be made to the way the company is run, or the debt Uber is in will only continue to rise to a point that may well be Silicon Valley’s most spectacular crash, an outcome undesired by most of us who are thankful for the existence of this excellent service.