What’s ahead on Uber’s path? Raising unprecedented amounts of money to outspend competitors, hiring key political PR experts to throw dirt on the taxi industry, and eventually ditching drivers to use self-driving cars. That’s according to CEO Travis Kalanick, who spoke today at the Code Conference.
Also, Uber has struck a new deal with AT&T to provide the carrier’s phones to drivers, and to be preloaded onto AT&T phones.
The thing to understand about Uber is that it’s different from other tech companies, Kalanick said. “It’s not Pinterest where people are putting up pins. You’re changing the way cities work, and that’s fundamentally a third rail.”
“We’re in a political campaign, and the candidate is Uber and the opponent is an asshole named Taxi,” Kalanick said. “Nobody likes him, he’s not a nice character, but he’s so woven into the political machinery and fabric that a lot of people owe him favors.”
Think Uber’s going to take the high road? No such luck. The company is looking to hire a senior executive who has run political campaigns, or who has run cities, Kalanick said. “We have to bring out the truth about how dark and dangerous and evil the taxi side is.”
Yup, Uber is raising money right now, and it could be at a reported valuation of $17 billion. “This one could be record-breaking,” Kalanick said.
Why? Because he runs a company whose competitors — namely Lyft — also have a lot of money to spend. “We do 10 times more trips than them and on a booking basis we’re 20 times bigger,” Kalanick claimed. “If they have the same amount of funding we spend faster, so you have to make sure you have a cash advantage.”
Will Uber sell to Google, which is one of its big investors, asked Re/code’s Kara Swisher. “You just asked a happily married man who his next wife is going to be,” was Kalanick’s cute reply. He then tried to take the coupling metaphor further. “In order to keep the love going, you want to keep it fun.” And would Uber acquire companies? “Are we going to adopt children? I don’t know.” It got a little weird.
Kalanick does have a lot of interest in Google’s work on self-driving cars, which may someday include entirely self-driving cars it designed itself.
That’s the way of the future, he said. “The reason Uber is expensive is not the car, it’s the other dude in the car. When there’s no dude in the car, the cost of taking the vehicle somewhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle. And then car ownership goes away.”
Asked whether Uber drivers would be pleased to hear they’ll be replaced by computers, Kalanick replied, “It’s quite a ways off … but this is the way the world’s going to go.” More on that here.